Gainesville, Fla. • It is time for Utah’s gymnastics team to face reality. As much potential as the Utes seem to have and as good as their talk has been, the Utes just can’t produce the level of gymnastics they need to compete with the nation’s elite teams right now.
The seventh-ranked Utes, who started the season with so much promise and even held the No. 1 ranking for three weeks, finished the regular season Friday with their second loss in as many weeks, losing to top-ranked Florida 197.9-196.475 in front of 5,762 at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.
That the Utes (7-3) lost to Florida (10-2) at home wasn’t much of a surprise.
After all the Gators were unbeaten at home this season and own four of the nation’s top 12 scores.
The Utes thought they could at least hang with the Gators if they could put together a strong meet without any major breaks.
That scenario was dashed in the first rotation as Kassandra Lopez had a break in her routine and usually steady performer Stephanie McAllister fell on her dismount.
The mistakes left the Utes with a 48.9 while Florida opened with a 49.325 on the vault.
Unfortunately, just like their season opener at UCLA and last week’s loss to No. 6 Nebraska, the Utes couldn’t rally enough to win. At least in those meets, the Utes had strong finishes. That wasn’t the case Friday as more mistakes on the floor and balance beam led to a big divide between the rivals.
The Utes’ final score was a season-high on the road this year, but that was little consolation considering all the miscues.
“We are out of time,” a clearly frustrated Utah coach Greg Marsden said. “We’ve squandered every opportunity on the road this year.”
Now the Utes, who finished the regular season on a two-meet loss for the first time in the program’s history, have less than a week to figure out their faults before hosting the Pac-12 Championships on Saturday.
Hosting the championships gives the Utes a prime opportunity to win the school’s first Pac-12 title. But the Utes are acutely aware they must have a better showing than they did against the Gators considering how strong the Pac-12 is this season.
Of the eight teams that will be in Salt Lake City competing for the title, Cal is the only one not ranked in the Top 25.
“We’re a good team but we just can’t seem to take the next step,” Marsden said.
Most alarming was the admittance by senior Stephanie McAllister that the Utes went into Friday’s meet with less confidence than they’d had in past meets.
“I don’t know why that is,” she said. “We worked on all the mental stuff all week but it is something in our heads. We weren’t confident and it showed.”
After the opening on bars, the Utes came back with a 49.325 on the vault, but fell even farther behind the Gators thanks to Florida’s 49.5 on the bars.
The Utes, who trailed 98.825-98.225 at the halfway point, had their fate sealed in the next rotation when more problems led to a 49.175 on floor while Florida rocked the beam, earning a 49.475.
Both senior Kyndal Robarts and freshman Tory Wilson fell during their floor routines, leading to the Utes’ fourth-lowest floor score of the year.
Utah finished with a 49.075 on the balance beam, led by Corrie Lothrop’s 9.9.
Like McAllister, Lothrop said she felt her teammates didn’t have the confidence they once had.
“Maybe it was being No. 1 for a while and the expectations,” she said. “Last year we were underdogs for the whole time. This year, it’s a mental thing and we just lack confidence.”
Now they have just a few days to get it back, with little idea how to do so.
“All we can do is keep working on our approach,” Marsden said.
No. 1 Florida 197.9, No. 7 Utah 196.475
R IN SHORT • The Utes slip to 2-7 against the Gators in Gainesville with Friday’s loss. Utah’s last win here was in 2001.
KEY STAT • Utah finishes the regular season on a two-meet losing streak for the first time in the program’s history.
Vault • Alaina Johnson (Florida), Georgia Dabritz (Utah), Kailah Delaney (Utah), 9.9
Uneven bars • Ashanee Dickerson (Florida), Alaina Johnson (Florida), 9.95
Balance beam • Alaina Johnson (Florida), Marissa King (Florida), 9.925
Floor • Marissa King (Florida), Kytra Hunter (Florida), 9.95
All-around • Marissa King (Florida), 39.65