Los Angeles • Utah's fifth-ranked gymnastics team, already short on experience, was even more handicapped in that area than expected against the Bruins on Saturday, with sophomore Kassandra Lopez sitting out the meet due to a lower leg muscle strain.
Lopez was scheduled to compete on three events in Saturday's season-opening loss. Sophomore Becky Tutka replaced Lopez on beam, Mary Beth Lofgren took her place on bars and Nansy Damianova filled in for her on the vault.
The results were mixed, with Lofgren falling as the leadoff on the bars, Damianova scoring a 9.825 on the vault and Tutka scoring a 9.75 on the beam.
The inconsistent results highlighted just how much the Utes need Lopez in the lineup.
Utah coach Greg Marsden said he didn't think the injury was serious and the Utes are hopeful she will be able to compete in the home opener Saturday.
"We don't think it's torn or anything like that," he said. "The biggest thing is she was one of our proven ones, especially on the beam. Now instead of having three unknowns there we have four unknowns."
Opening at UCLA gave the Utes a sneak preview of sorts of Pauley Pavilion, the site of the NCAA Championships scheduled for April 19-21.
However, Marsden said nationals are a completely different atmosphere.
"It's on a podium and with all the teams here, it's a totally different environment," he said. "There really isn't much carryover at all."
The Utes are opening their season a week later than most of the teams. Marsden said he elected to push the opener back a week rather than open right after the holidays.
"A lot of our gymnasts travel far for the holidays and we would have had to compete on the 4th or 5th," he said. "Since we didn't start back until the 27th, that would have been too quick of a turnaround."
Utah held an alumni gathering prior to the meet. Former gymnasts Nina Kim and Kristina Baskett attended along with other former gymnasts. … The Utes host Oregon State, West Virginia and SUU in their home opener Saturday. … Utah has sold a record 6,630 season tickets.