Utah's gymnastics team was mentally up for the challenge of taking on the top-ranked Florida Gators.
Unfortunately for them, mind didn't rule over matter Friday as the Gators beat the Utes 197.0-196.75 in front of an NCAA record crowd 15,558 at the Huntsman Center.
The loss broke Utah's three-meet winning streak. It also showed that, while the Utes still trail the Gators in the rankings and head-to-head meetings, there is reason to hope they can be an NCAA title contender by April, even in a year in which the Gators have dominated from the start.
Florida was denied an NCAA championship a year ago when it crumbled under the pressure of hosting the event and finished fifth just one spot ahead of the Utes.
Boasting five gymnasts with 13 All-America honors among them, the Gators entered Friday's meet with the top team ranking and top rankings in all events.
All that firepower was just too much for the Utes, who were without a healthy Corrie Lothrop, their top all-arounder, and Victoria Shanley.
Knowing where the Gators are and the potential his team has, Utah coach Greg Marsden was encouraged, even in defeat.
"That is a team that has been ahead of everybody all year, and they can't get a whole lot better," he said of the Gators. "I say that as a compliment to them. They came out of the chute on a mission and ready to go in championship form.
"The challenge for them is to maintain that form while other people get closer and closer, and we are a team that can continue to get closer."
Lothrop, hindered by an ankle injury, competed on the balance beam and managed a 9.85, but her heroics weren't enough to help the Utes overcome the Gators.
Florida's best events were the vault and uneven bars, in which it scored 49.4 and 49.275, respectively.
The Utes stayed within a couple of tenths of a point of the Gators and trailed 98.675-98.425 at the midway point.
Still, Utah needed to be perfect, and they knew they had to get a few breaks from the Gators.
There was right to hope, since three falls on the balance beam against Arkansas a week ago led to the Gators' first loss of the year.
However, Florida didn't cooperate with Friday's upset plans, as it hit every routine.
At the same time, the Utes had a few breaks that hurt them, as Jacquelyn Johnson fell off the balance beam and Nansy Damianova stepped out on floor.
While neither score lost the meet for the Utes, they didn't help the comeback bid, either.
Utah junior Stephanie McAllister, who won the all-around with a 39.45, said going against the Gators in front of an overflow crowd got to the Utes a bit.
However, Utah didn't show any signs of cracking until the floor, where landings gave them some trouble.
"We still need to work on floor landings," McAllister said. "I don't know if everyone needs to relax more and take a few breaths, or if they got caught up in everything."
R Florida scores 49.4 on the vault, with the last three gymnasts earning 9.9s.
All-around • Stephanie McAllister (Utah) 39.45
Vault • Ashanee Dickerson (Florida), Alaina Johnson (Florida), Marissa King (Florida), Gael Mackie (Utah) 9.9
Bars • Stephanie McAllister (Utah), Mackenzie Caquatto (Florida), Alaina Johnson (Florida), 9.925
Beam • Fumina Kobayashi (Utah), Cortni Beers (Utah), Mackenzie Caquatto (Florida) 9.875
Floor • Stephanie McAllister (Utah) 9.875
First • Florida (uneven bars) 49.4; Utah (vault) 49.175
Second • Florida (vault) 49.275; Utah (uneven bars) 49.25
Third • Florida (floor) 49.075; Utah (balance beam) 49.175
Fourth • Florida (beam) 49.25; Utah (floor) 49.15