So-called trap games, contests in which a heavily favored opponent overlooks a foe regarded as much weaker, are hard to peg in gymnastics since there are no one-on-one battles.
However, if there is ever a potential for Utah’s sixth-ranked gymnastics team to fall into a night of mediocrity based on an opponent’s strength and atmosphere, it is the upcoming meet against No. 23 Washington.
The meet against the Huskies comes just after an emotional win over Cal and before the Utes take on three of their biggest rivals in successive weeks as they face BYU, Georgia and Florida.
As for the Huskies, Utah has gotten the better of the Pac-12 school since 2001, a string of 16 successive wins.
A win over Washington shouldn’t be a problem for the Utes, unless, of course, they go into the meet thinking so.
Being heavily favored against a team that draws less than a few thousand fans has the Utes set up for an epic failure, Utah’s coaches say.
The Utes addressed the issue in practice earlier this week and can only hope the young team listened.
“The nature of the sport, since we don’t have any defense, is the girls are trained to focus on themselves and not get caught up in the other team,” co-coach Megan Marsden said. “The big danger for us is going to an arena where we won’t have 14,000 people and trying to generate your own excitement. This group has gotten good at putting the finishing touches and emotions together for our fans, but they have to learn how to do that on the road.”
Utah’s road trips have been a mixed bag this year, with Utah losing big in the season opener at UCLA, when three of the first four bar workers fell.
The Utes did a better job at Arizona, taking a 196.6-196.075 win, but even then the coaches felt the team was too tight to start the meet.
Sophomore Tory Wilson said the team knows it needs to improve the starts.
“When you start on vault you are pumped, and it is an exciting event and it is easier,” she said. “Bars, it’s important to stay calm at the beginning, relax and get started right.”
The Utes might not be hurt by slow starts now, but in a few weeks when they start their championship run, there will be no room for such tentativeness.
“All of those meets are on the road, so we want to make sure they know how to handle them and know what to do,” Marsden said.
A week ago, the Utes were determined to show they could be a strong team without Corrie Lothrop, who suffered a season-ending injury two weeks ago.
Now that they’ve had a taste of that success, they are determined to continue it, sophomore Kassandra Lopez said.
“Right now, no one is looking past any team,” she said. “We’ve all been practicing hard and training hard, and we want to do our best no matter who the meet is against. For us, we know we have to look to ourselves to keep the energy alive, but for our group our motivation doesn’t change.”
No. 6 Utah at No. 23 Washington
P Friday, 8 p.m. MT
Records • Utah 6-1, 3-1; Washington 6-6, 2-2
TV • Feb. 17, 11 a.m. Pac-12 Networks
About the Utes • Utah is coming off its season best of 197.05 in a win against Cal. ... Tory Wilson has won every vault competition this year and is ranked No. 1 on the event. ... Freshman Haley Lange, who is from Bellevue, Wash., is expected to compete on the vault and beam in exhibition.
About the Huskies • Senior Kylie Sharp trained at Olympus School of Gymnastics and is a graduate of Riverton High School. ... The Utes hold a 12-0-1 lead over the Huskies dating back to a tie in 2001. ... Their season high was a 196.025 in a win over Arizona.