Gymnastics: Michigan's home floor dominance awaits Utes

Just a reminder: Utah has never left Ann Arbor, Mich., with a win
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Utah's gymnastics team is too busy trying to stick its dismounts and make perfect handstands to worry about trivia. But one little fact has been hounded into them this week, so much the Utes couldn't ignore it if they tried.

Utah, collegiate gymnastics' winningest program, has never won in Ann Arbor, Mich., going 0-4, including in 2004 when Utah was 5-0 before stepping into the Wolverines' arena.

"We had no idea about that until this week," senior Kristen Riffanacht said. "Now we've heard it about 14 times a day since Monday. Obviously, we're going in there with a purpose."

The only other places Utah hasn't won at are Alabama (0-8), Southern Illinois (0-1) and Stanford (0-1). But the losing streak to Michigan shouldn't be held against this group, junior Nicolle Ford said.

"We've been reminded of it 14,000 times, but that one ain't our fault," said Ford, adding a little slang for attitude. "Our freshmen and sophomores haven't competed there, and I was just a freshman. What was I supposed to know?"

Never mind the circumstances, this group would like to see the streak end.

"Knowing we've never won there just motivates us more," sophomore Ashley Postell said. "We're excited to go to Michigan and kick some butt. It would be cool to be a part of the team that changed history."

Utah has other reasons for a win too, such as proving its No. 2 ranking is deserved. The rankings are decided by average, but scores vary around the country and in the past, scores have been generally higher in the East. However, Utah has competed only in the West, so a win against a national contender from the East would go a long ways in validating their spot in the poll.

"I don't know why we haven't won there, but we're going to change that now," senior Gritt Hofmann said. "We don't want to hear it again. We want to keep our spot [in the polls] going, and show we are a team ready to fight for a national championship title."

Like the Utes, the Wolverines are currently undefeated, but tied Nebraska 195.675 on Jan. 13. Utah defeated the Huskers a week later in Salt Lake, 195.75-193.0.

The Utes are talking big, especially for a team that hasn't performed too well on the road. A week ago, Utah needed a clutch performance and a collapse from Arizona State on the floor to beat the Sun Devils.

"Now we know what can happen, and it works both ways," Ford said. "That wasn't what we wanted, but it was an eye opener and we know how it feels to be in that position. I'm not quite sure that is a bad thing."

Utah has also had to count a fall in each of its three road meets and has just two left after Michigan, at BYU on Feb. 24 and at Florida on March 17.

"My big challenge to them this week has been to put together a better performance on the road," Utah coach Greg Marsden said. "It's important we get consistent away from our comfort zone, and our opportunities are slipping away. Our schedule is home-heavy toward the end and with regionals and nationals on the road, we need to do well in these types of opportunities."

Especially if it means ending a losing streak in the process.