So much for tempering expectations and waiting a few meets to judge just how good Utah's fifth-ranked gymnastics team is going to be this year.
When you beat the defending champions and top-ranked team in the country, you don't get to hide.
Utah's roster, bolstered by six freshmen, overcame any first-meet nerves they had and a strong UCLA team to win the opener 195.7-195.3 in front of 12,445 at the Huntsman Center on Friday.
"We went in with what is fair to say low expectations, with so many freshmen in everything," said junior Stephanie McAllister, who won the all-around with a 39.175. "We made it a goal to make it like practice and not be perfect, and we did an awesome job of that."
All the Utes whose scores counted Friday earned a 9.825 or higher on the vault, giving Utah a 49.275 score and a sizable lead over the Bruins, who earned 48.825 on the uneven bars.
The Bruins didn't have any major breaks, but overall, tight scoring on the bars put them in a hole.
Still, the Bruins battled back and were within striking distance of getting their second straight season-opening win against the Utes as the two teams went to their final events.
Two falls on the balance beam did in the Bruins, as they scored 48.475, while the Utes scored a 48.825 on the floor.
Both teams had their moments when they looked as if they were competing for the first time this year. UCLA also held out some of its gymnasts on certain events because it has a meet Sunday, too.
But regardless of whether UCLA was full strength or not, beating the defending champions provides a boost of confidence for the Utes' young team that travels to Georgia next week for another challenging meet.
"For a coach, it was an ideal beginning," Utah coach Greg Marsden said. "We upset the defending national champions with no major mistakes, but certainly, we have a lot to talk about this week and as the season moves on."
The Utes had two gut-check moments in the meet. The first came when Gael Mackie, the leadoff gymnast on the balance beam, fell and scored just 9.15. McAllister followed and scored a 9.7 after a bobble in her routine.
With the Utes' confidence waning, junior Cortni Beers, whose previous career best in the event was 9.8 scored at regionals and the NCAA Championships last year, delivered a 9.825.
That was the routine the Utes needed to get them going again, and freshman Corrie Lothrop (9.775), freshman Mary Beth Lofgren (9.725) and senior Kyndal Robarts (9.85) all scored well enough to keep the Utes in front.
Utah's final pressure moment came on the floor, where Lothrop closed out the meet with a 9.7 to clinch the victory.
Putting a freshman in an anchor role is unusual, but Marsden said he feels Lothrop has the potential to be a big scorer for the Utes.
"She is going to get a lot better, more comfortable than even what we saw this evening," he said.
As for the young team in general, Marsden was encouraged by the result, even if he is hesitant to read too much into it.
"It's the first meet for both of us, and we both did a good job, but we have to get better and we will get better," he said. "We'll celebrate tonight. We did what you want to do, but we are not going to make more of it than it is. But we'll enjoy it."
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Storylines Utes win season opener
R IN SHORT • The Utes avenge last year's season-opening loss to UCLA by beating the Bruins on Friday.
KEY MOMENT • UCLA suffers two falls on the balance beam to allow the Utes to get the upset.
KEY STAT • Utah scores a 49.275 on the vault, with every score that counted being a 9.825 or higher.
Recent Utah vs. UCLA season openers
Year Winner Score
Jan. 7, 2011 Utah 195.7-195.3
Jan. 1, 2010 UCLA 196.5-195.125
Jan. 12, 2007 Utah 196.325-195.975
Jan. 7, 2006 Utah 194.875-193.85
Jan. 7, 2005 Utah 197.675-197.3
Jan. 4, 2004 Utah 197.35-196.375
Jan. 10, 2003 UCLA 197.225-196.75
First • Utah 49.275 (vault); UCLA 48.825 (uneven bars)
Second • Utah 48.725 (uneven bars); UCLA 49.15 (vault)
Third • Utah 48.875 (balance beam); UCLA 48.825 (floor)
Fourth • Utah 48.825 (floor); UCLA 48.475 (balance beam)