Utah gymnastics: Utes end eight-meet losing streak to UCLA
Published: January 26, 2014 12:06AM
Updated: January 26, 2014 09:12AM
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Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune The Lady Utes are introduced before the Utah vs. UCLA meet , at the Huntsman Center, Saturday, January 25, 2014.

So, how good is Utah’s gymnastics team this season? The fourth-ranked Utes beat No. 8 UCLA 197.125-195.875 in front of 14,483 at the Huntsman Center on Saturday and instead of being thrilled, coach Greg Marsden was steaming about mistakes on the balance beam.

“It needs to become our best event,” he said. “If we can do that, we are going to be a contender.”

There it is, then, the Utah Utes are darn good. At least good enough to feel the pressure of a coach who, one win away from his 1,000th, knows this team could be something special so he’s going to keep upping the stakes.

Where in recent seasons the Utes focused on improving, this team has its eyes on something more, perhaps becoming a real threat in the national championships.

The Utes looked like such a team on Saturday, taking down the Bruins with surprising ease. Georgia Dabritz was the star for the Utes, winning the vault (9.975), uneven bars (9.95) and floor (9.975) titles. Like her, the Utes were close to being perfect, except for the mistakes on balance beam.

“It was a great night for me and everybody,” Dabritz said.

To be fair, the Bruins weren’t at full strength as they had to juggle their lineups at the last minute. Samantha Peszek, who wasn’t expected to compete due to a “stress reaction” in her heel, the precursor to a stress fracture, was forced into duty when teammate Danusia Francis was pulled from all but the balance beam lineup due to flu symptoms.

Whether it was the personnel changes, the different atmosphere or simply just an off night, the Bruins never seemed to have the edge they needed to keep pace with the Utes.

Utah opened with a season-high 49.6 on the uneven bars with Dabritz leading the Utes and Tory Wilson and Kailah Delaney adding 9.925s.

While the Utes were hauling in big scores, the Bruins were struggling with their efforts and suffered a fall and a major break on the uneven bars, scoring just 48.625.

One event into the night and it was evident which team was going to win. Such decisiveness is rare in gymnastics, particularly against a team like the Bruins.

“I think we proved ourselves tonight,” Delaney said. “We are one of the best teams. It’s really cool, a great position to be in.”

But about that beam. The Utes scored just 48.575 after Tory Wilson and Mary Beth Lofgren fell and Breanna Hughes had a bobble.

While the mistakes were troubling since Utah had issues on the event last week as well, they weren’t enough to cost the Utes the win.

But the Utes don’t want the mistakes to continue, costing them something bigger down the road.

“We just have to keep working on it and compete on it like we practice,” Lofgren said.

If they can get their issues resolved the pressure and expectations will grow. Bring it on, the Utes said.

“We just need to keep fighting,” Lofgren said.

No. 4 Utah 197.125,No. 8 UCLA 195.875

O IN SHORT • Utah ends its eight-meet losing streak to the Bruins with Georgia Dabritz winning all of the event titles except for the balance beam.

Key stat • The win moves Utah coach Greg Marsden to one victory away from 1,000 wins. He is 999-199-7 in his 39th season.

Key moment • Utah takes control of the meet early when Mary Beth Lofgren nails her vault for a 9.9 while UCLA’s Ellette Craddock falls from the uneven bars.

Event winner

Vault • Georgia Dabritz (Utah) 9.975

Uneven bars • Georgia Dabritz (Utah) 9.95

Balance beam • Danusia Francis (UCLA) 9.95

Floor • Georgia Dabritz (Utah) 9.975

All-around • Hallie Mossett (UCLA) 39.075