Gymnastics: Utes finish strong, floor Cornhuskers
After several weeks of struggles, Utah's gymnastics team put together its season-best performance Friday. It couldn't have come at a better time.
The No. 9 Utes needed every bit of their best effort to beat No. 11 Nebraska 196.575-195.725 in front of 14,726 at the Huntsman Center.
The Utes flirted with their first loss at home since 2007 when they trailed by .125 going into the final rotation.
There, you can either say the Utes (7-2) won it and Nebraska (13-3) lost it. The Utes had some small mistakes and bobbles, but avoided any major breaks and scored a 49.425.
Nebraska, on the other hand, suffered two falls costing it the upset bid. The first fall came from leadoff gymnast Kathryn Howard (9.35).
The second came from Kassandra Nathe (9.425) and occurred within seconds of a 9.925 floor routine by Daria Bijak.
The combination of those two routines swung the meet back to the Utes, giving them not only a win over one of their biggest rivals but their best score of the year.
Bijak won the all-around with a 39.425.
"When you are at home you should be able to win on floor if it's close," Utah coach Greg Marsden said. "I wasn't surprised, it's always close with Nebraska. They are well-coached and get better as the season goes on. Had they not counted a fall on beam it would have been a very close result."
Senior Annie DiLuzio ended the final rotation with a 9.95 to win the floor title and put an exclamation mark on the comeback.
"We kept building on each routine and we were aggressive even though there were some mistakes here and there," DiLuzio said. "We went big, finally like we trained it."
The Utes didn't have to count a fall like they did the last two meets. The difference was preventing one mistake leading to another one.
"Just to have a good meet again and not have those mistakes was good," Marsden said. "We're running out of weeks and we stopped the bleeding.
"It was a better effort than we've had in the last three weeks. We still have a ways to go. We have to get consistently better."
Utah's meet started rough when Meg Whitney fell as the leadoff vaulter, but everyone else scored 9.8 or higher to help the Utes to a 49.3, their second-highest score of the year on the event.
DiLuzio tied her career high on the vault with a 9.95 and Daria Bijak tied her season high with a 9.875.
The Utes had a similar showing on the uneven bars where Jacquelyn Johnson fell (9.125) and Kyndal Robarts had a major deduction (9.675). But again, the rest of the lineup responded and the Utes notched a 49.0, tying their second highest score of the season.
It was a good night for the Utes to respond well to mistakes considering the Huskers weren't going away.
They did well enough to trail the Utes by just .125 after two rotations then took the lead with a 49.1 on the floor while the Utes earned a 48.85 on the balance beam.
That left the Utes with a .125 deficit going into the final rotation.
But instead of a loss at home, the Utes got a boost in their confidence with the win and it could be the turning point of the year, Robarts said.
"There were still definitely some mistakes we made but it was encouraging that it was our high score but we still have room to improve," Robarts said.
IN SHORT » The Utes made up a .125 deficit on the floor to beat the No. 11 Huskers.
KEY MOMENT » Nebraska's Kassandra Nathe fell off the beam, forcing the Huskers to have to count a fall.
KEY STAT » The Utes' floor score of 49.425 was a season best.
All-Around » Daria Bijak, Utah, 39.425
Vault » Annie DiLuzio, Utah, 9.950
Bars » Jamie Deetscreek, Utah, 9.875, Daria Bijak, Utah, 9.875
Beam » Jamie Deetscreek, Utah, 9.875
Floor » Annie DiLuzio, Utah, 9.950
First rotation » Utah 49.300, Nebraska 48.925
Second rotation » Utah 98.300, Nebraska 98.175
Third rotation » Nebraska 147.275, Utah 147.150
Fourth rotation » Utah 196.575, Nebraska 195.725