Utes know they need to become road warriors
Utah's gymnasts have been so focused on correcting their inconsistencies and overcoming the absence of Corrie Lothrop they've lost track of the season.
"It is crazy to think we only have three meets left," sophomore Georgia Dabritz said. "We were all in the training room talking about how this season is almost done and how fast it flies."
Well, at least they saved the best for last. The Utes close out the year with their three biggest meets, starting with Friday's road meet at rival BYU. The Utes travel to No. 8 Georgia next and wrap up the regular season March 16 at home against No. 2 Florida.
After running that gamut, the Utes should be ready for the post-season run. If they aren't, well, they don't even want to think about any other possibility. Suddenly, they realize they are staring at a now or never situation when it comes to getting their improvements down."
"We still have a lot of things we need to improve on," junior Mary Beth Lofgren said. "We are slowly getting better and working hard but we need to keep it going."
The next two meets present the biggest challenges for the Utes because they are on the road, where Utah has struggled the most.
Low scores at UCLA, Arizona and Washington have left Utah's gymnasts needing to go big in their final two away meets so they get a decent seed into the regional competition.
"It's the same situation we were in last year when we shot ourselves in the foot," Utah coach Greg Marsden said.
The Utes were ranked No. 8 last year and were seeded second going into the NCAA regionals, where they took advantage of being at home and won the event.
This year Utah will be on the road for the post season, the very place they've struggled.
"We've just had a few misses that have cost us," Marsden said. "I don't want to beat a dead horse, but we've had some fluky things happen. We just need to relax and compete with confidence."
In particular, Utah has had issues on both the balance beam and the uneven bars, the "head" events according to Marsden.
The miscues haven't come from any gymnasts in particular, and like their coach the gymnasts feel they can compete better. Looking at the schedule, they know they have to compete better.
"We can all get cleaner on our handstands and other things," junior Nansy Damianova said. "We've all been training a lot harder on the details."
Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see how the Utes compete in their final two road meets, which will come in very different atmospheres. Utah normally has more fans than BYU in Provo, making for a rather friendly road atmosphere. It will be just the opposite when Utah travels to Georgia, where the Utes have a history of close and emotional meets.
The Utes know the meets will be a challenge, but they are up for them, despite how daunting they look and their past struggles.
"Sometimes it's harder to get pumped up for road meets but we know we need to start right off with a bang," junior Lia Del Priore said. "We know we have to learn from our mistakes, but not dwell on them."
No. 8 Utah at BYU
P Friday, 7 p.m.
Records • Utah 7-1-1; BYU 7-6; North Carolina State 10-5-1. TV • BYUtv. Live scoring • utahutes.com
About the Utes • Utah is coming off a 197.3-197.075 win over Stanfo rd, which included a season-high of 49.525 on the floor. ...The Utes are 158-for-168 routines this year. ... Georgia Dabritz leads the Utes with 11 victories. ...Utah is 88-2 all-time against BYU and 24-2 in Provo.
About the opponents • This is BYU's final home meet. ... The Cougars scored a season high 195.8 in a win over SUU (194.075). ...Top all-arounder is Raquel Willman (39.2). ... N.C. State has a season high of 195.675. ... Top all-arounder is Stephanie Ouellette (39.2).