Gymnastics • After series of falls at UCLA, Utah wants to show improvement.
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Utah's season-opening gymnastics meet was disappointing for the Utes, to say the least. It was No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the Pac-12 rankings, the first nationally televised meet by the Pac-12 Networks and held in front of a large group of Utah alumni.
That the Utes suffered three falls in their first four uneven bars routines, effectively ending any drama as to the outcome, has bugged Utah's gymnasts ever since the 197.425-195.3 loss.
The score was Utah's lowest mark since losing to Michigan 195.725-195.1 in 2010.
"It was all set up for a great night, and after the first four routines we felt like we let everybody down," Utah coach Greg Marsden said.
The No. 15 Utes can't have a do-over all they can do is improve, starting with Saturday's four-team quad meet in the Huntsman Center.
The meet, which begins at 7 p.m. and features No. 20 SUU, No. 22 West Virginia and No. 23 Oregon State, is Utah's shot at making a better impression for the hometown fans than anyone who might have been watching the opener.
"We're excited because it's a chance for us at redemption," sophomore Georgia Dabritz said. "That first meet, we didn't show what we wanted to, and this is a chance for us in our home setting to do that."
Competing at home, where crowds average almost 14,000, can present its own challenges. As experienced as they might be in gymnastics, freshmen rarely compete in front of such large crowds at the national level, so it's typical that they are a little shellshocked by the atmosphere at Utah.
However, Marsden believes the Utes won't allow that to happen Saturday. Utah historically has competed well at home and the one freshman expected to contribute Saturday, Breanna Hughes, was solid under pressure at UCLA.
Hughes scored a 9.85 on the uneven bars and a 9.825 on the balance beam.
"We talked about the issues of what happened last week and what we needed to do to get better," Marsden said. "That starts with a meet where we don't have any falls. Last week we just didn't handle things well. We panicked on that first event but then we were pretty good, so I feel like it was just some first-meet issues. We aren't completely ignoring what happened, but I don't think that is indicative of how we are going to compete."
A lack of depth continues to be an issue for the Utes as sophomore Kassandra Lopez, a potential contributor in the all-around, missed the opener with a strained calf muscle. She isn't expected to compete Saturday.
"We'll see what happens, but I don't think she is quite ready," Marsden said. "We want to make sure we have her healthy the rest of the season."
This is the first quad meet for the Utes since 2010. The format is equally loved and despised by many as some like the hectic atmosphere it creates while others have expressed frustrations that they miss many routines.
Hoping to appease the later group, each athlete will perform one at a time. The meet may be a little longer, but Marsden hopes it appeals more to fans.
"I think we run as good a meet as anybody, so hopefully it won't make it much longer," he said.
O No. 15 Utah vs. No. 20 SUU, No. 22 West Virginia, No. 23 Oregon State
When • Saturday, 7 p.m.
About the Utes • Haven't lost a home opener since 2003, when they lost to UCLA. … Sophomore Kassandra Lopez is not expected to compete due to a lower leg strain. … Tory Wilson earned Utah's first individual win of the year at UCLA, tying for the vault title with a 9.9. … Georgia Dabritz is ranked No. 7 in the all-around.
About the opponents • SUU had a school-best 194.875 in a season-opening loss to UCLA. … West Virginia beat Pitt 194.675-193.55 in its season opener. … Oregon State has a season high of 195.375 and is led by two All-Americans (Makayla Stambaugh and Melanie Jones).