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Utah gymnastics: Utes win home opener vs. SUU, Oregon State, WVU

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(Lennie Mahler | The Salt Lake Tribune) Nansy Damianova performs on the vault earning a 9.775 during the Red Rocks' meet against Oregon State, West Virginia, and SUU at the Huntsman Center, Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013. The Red Rocks edged the competition with a final score of 196.950, followed by Oregon State with a score of 195.950.

By Lya Wodraska

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Jan 19 2013 10:20PM
Updated May 5, 2013 11:33PM

Well, that was more like it. A week after suffering through a disappointing season opener at UCLA, Utah’s No. 15 gymnastics team looked like its old self Saturday as it easily won its home opener with a 196.95 in front of 14,917 at the Huntsman Center.

The Utes, who suffered three falls in their first four routines on the uneven bars at UCLA, made it through Saturday’s meet without a fall and were much cleaner overall.

Utah’s solid performance was in stark contrast to the visitors, who all had their problem areas. Oregon State was second with a 195.95, followed by West Virginia (192.125) and Southern Utah (191.05).

SUU lost its top gymnast, Alyssa Click, to a season-ending knee injury in practice Thursday and the T-birds struggled without her as they suffered three falls on balance beam.

Oregon State and West Virginia both had falls on the uneven bars and balance beam.

The Utes, meanwhile, cruised through their routines with more determination and confidence than they showed at UCLA.

"We are a good team, and we wanted to show that, and hopefully we proved it tonight," Utah sophomore Georgia Dabritz said.

The only glitch for the Utes didn’t even involve the team. The Utes experimented with some large video boards in the upper bowl that were supposed to show a running tally of the scores. But they didn’t work until the meet was almost over.

Luckily, the Utes were clicking from the start.

Earlier in the week, Utah coach Greg Marsden said he was confident his team’s struggles at UCLA had more to do with first-meet jitters than a lack of talent. His gymnasts backed up his vote of confidence with as strong a meet as they could have hoped for in the opener.

"Tonight was more like I was expecting last week," he said. "There were some things that I thought were better last week, like our vault landings, we were a bit amped up tonight. But tonight overall, that is what I am expecting to see week in and week out."

The Utes were led by Dabritz, who won the all-around with a 39.525. She won or tied for every event title except the vault, where Tory Wilson starred with a 9.95.

"Georgia is the real deal," Marsden said. "The only thing holding Georgia back in the past was Georgia. She had a reputation for meltdowns and making mistakes in competition and obviously she has really taken some giant steps forward."

The Utes also got a boost in the uneven bars lineup with the return of Kassandra Lopez.

The sophomore missed the season opener due to a lower leg strain. She was well enough to earn a spot in the bars lineup and scored a 9.775 to set the tone for the Utes.

"Especially after sitting back and watching at UCLA, I knew it was important to hit," Lopez said. "After that first fall, it’s hard to get back to it. I thought about it and knew I needed to hit for the girls."

As good as the bars were for the Utes, the balance beam was even better. The Utes scored a 49.325 on the event, with Dabritz scoring a 9.9 to win the event title.

"I really have a lot of confidence in this group," Marsden said. "They are a really good, hard-working group who enjoy what they are doing and are open to coaching and trying to make corrections and get better."

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