It might seem a little odd that the Utah Utes are going east across the country to prove their biggest debacle out west this year was just an anomaly, but that is exactly how Utah’s sixth-ranked gymnastics team views Friday’s meet at No. 7 Michigan.
The Utes, who will also face No. 8 UCLA in the meet, traditionally have struggled at Michigan where they are just 3-6.
No. 6 Utah at No. 7 Michigan, No. 8 UCLA
O Friday, 5 p.m. MT
At Ann Arbor, Mich.
TV » None
Live scores » www.utahutes.com
Records » Utah (12-2, 4-0); UCLA (6-2, 6-1)
Series » Utah leads series vs. Michigan 24-12 and UCLA 44-24-1
Last meeting » Utah lost to Michigan, 196.85-196.2 on April 19, 2013 and defeated UCLA 197.125-195.875 on Jan. 25.
About the Utes » Utah has outscored its opponent in every meet on vault and bars and has won six of eight floor competitions. ... Becky Tutka is expected to compete in the balance beam rotation for the second week in a row. ... The Utes have hit 24-for-24 routines just once this year, against Oregon State.
About the opponents » The Wolverines have won nine consecutive home meets. ... Michigan’s season-high is a 197.325. ... Michigan gymnasts have won 26 of 32 individual titles. ... UCLA’s only Pac-12 loss is to Utah.
The meet also represents Utah’s closest competition based on rankings since their 197.0-196.3 loss at Stanford in which the Utes had two falls on the balance beam.
The defeat looked far too similar to the disappointing losses in 2013 in which the Utes didn’t have the mental fortitude to excel under pressure.
They’d like to redeem themselves in the tri-meet.
"It is a huge meet for us," junior Georgia Dabritz said. "We’ve had a great mentality all year and we’d like to continue that and be in our ‘beast mode,’ and have confidence in ourselves. We didn’t do that against Stanford so this is another chance."
Adding to the pressure of the meet is the presence of the Bruins, one of Utah’s biggest rivals. Utah beat the Bruins 197.125-195.875 in January and will see them again at the Pac-12 Championships at Cal on March 22, when the two teams will be the favorites.
Utah coach Greg Marsden wasn’t thrilled at first to hear the meet also included the Bruins, but now is thankful for the competition.
"It’s a tough challenge, but we need it to be," he said. "This is the kind of situation this team needs to prepare for the postseason. It doesn’t matter how we’ve done before, we need this kind of pressure and test."
Unfortunately the Utes don’t go into the meet at their best. Dabritz has a hip strain that is expected to keep her out of the beam lineup while Kailah Delaney is getting over an illness and Becky Tutka has tendinitis in her Achilles that is hindering her.
Nevertheless, the Utes feel they can still go to Michigan and get a much needed win.
"A lot of the media are referring to our meet at Stanford as a meltdown," junior Tory Wilson said. "But sometimes you have to hit a low to get better and move forward. It has been good for us because we have gotten tougher and strengthened our minds."
The Utes have proclaimed a similar theme before, only to fail. This time they promise it will be different, it needs to be, they say.
"We have to go in and do what we are capable of and show we can handle the pressure," Marsden said. "This is how it’s going to be from here on out with meets coming down to the last one or two routines, and we need to be able to handle it."
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