Seattle » The scene at the Georgia-Utah gymnastics meet a week ago had all the elements of a big-time sporting event. Scalpers worked the crowd outside, fans poured into the arena early and the majority of the seats were filled despite a winter storm that could have given them a reason to stay away.
The Utes fed off the energy of that big crowd in their first win over Georgia in two years.
Now comes the hard part.
The Utes are on the road for four of their next five meets, starting with tonight's competition at Washington.
The No. 3 Utes, who beat Georgia in front of an NCAA-record crowd 15,552, know there will be far fewer fans in the stands tonight when they compete against the No. 24 Huskies. They'll have to manufacture their own energy, which sometimes can be hard to do they say.
"Competing at home is energizing and we definitely need to work at it more on the road, it's always hard," senior Beth Rizzo said. "As a team we know we have to stick together more and support each other more."
The good news is that tonight's meet might be the hardest of all the road meets for the Utes to find that energy because the remaining road trips have their own significance. The Utes compete at Arizona State next week, which has long been a rival.
After hosting Utah State on Feb. 12, the Utes travel to Michigan, a place where the Utes have historically struggled against a team which is a constant presence on the national scene. On Feb. 26 the Utes compete at rival BYU.
Utah's other road trip is in mid-March to Florida, which is the site of this year's NCAA Championships.
"We definitely have the best fans in the country and their support helps us perform," senior Annie DiLuzio. "We have to stay focused on our goals. It might not be as easy when you get to that last event though and the crowd isn't into it. You have to rely on your teammates more and everyone helping you."
The motivation for tonight is simply improving upon what the Utes have done in the last three meets and that should be reason enough for another big effort the Utes believe.
"We've built on our scores every week and that in itself is a confidence builder," Rizzo said. "It gives you motivation to want to keep building."
Utah coach Greg Marsden said he didn't mean to bunch all of Utah's road trips together, but that it simply worked out that way.
"Since we're not in a conference we have to take what we can get, depending on other teams' conference schedules," he said. "If that means we meet early or late we have to take it. We'd like a nice flow of back and forth home and away. Of course, I probably wouldn't purposely schedule UCLA and Georgia as two of our first three either but I did."
Today, 8 p.m.
About the meet » All of the Huskies' losses have been to Top 10 opponents. ... Utah's Kyndal Robarts is tied for 10th nationally in the all-around (39.212). ... Washington's season high is 194.875.
Elsewhere » SUU competes at Sacramento State tonight and at San Jose State on Saturday. Utah State hosts Boise State at 7 p.m. BYU competes at Iowa State tonight.