Gainesville, Fla. » Just when it looked like there might be a snowball fight in a very hot place, Utah's gymnastics team lost its grip, first on the balance beam and then on a possible upset as the No. 9 Utes fell to No. 5 Florida 197.55-196.5 on Friday in front of 4,859 at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center.
Utah coach Greg Marsden, who earlier this week gave his team a "snowball's chance in hell" at beating the Gators on their home floor, almost had to eat his words as the Utes had an upset within reach going into the final rotation when they trailed the Gators just .475.
The Utes (10-3) got the opening they needed to possibly hand the Gators their first home loss since 2008 when Florida's Liz Green fell during her floor routine and scored just 9.15.
Unfortunately, Utah's hopes of stunning the Gators (9-2) were short-lived as Cortni Beers fell during her balance beam routine and scored just 9.225, Jamie Deetscreek had a bobble and scored 9.7 and Kyndal Robarts had trouble too and scored 9.7.
The Utes ultimately didn't have to count a fall, but going up against a quality team such as the Gators, the small errors in the final rotation seemed magnified.
While the Utes struggled on the beam, the Gators got stronger after their opening mistake on the floor as the rest of the lineup scored 9.85 or higher.
Florida's final score tied its season best while Utah's score was its highest road score of the season.
However, it was that last rotation, which resulted in a 48.85, that was most on the minds of the Utes.
"If we'd handled beam better, I would have been very pleased with the performance tonight," Marsden said.
The Utes were led by Daria Bijak, who scored a 39.525 to finish second to Florida's Marissa King in the all-around (39.575).
Bijak and Annie DiLuzio scored team high 9.85s on the beam as they seemed unfazed the most by the situation.
"The first three events were great," Bijak said. "We started off well and then struggled on beam. I can't talk for anybody else, but we got a couple of low scores and that seemed to affect us."
Balance beam problems have plagued the Utes this season. Now they just have next week's season finale against BYU and the NCAA Regional Championships on April 10 to fix their issues.
The Utes have the skills, but clearly become affected in a negative way when a teammate has a mistake. The way Florida responded so strongly to its mistake on floor only heightened the Utes' issue.
"Cortni has a fall and we tightened up," Marsden said. "Those were uncharacteristic mistakes that Kyndal and Jamie had. We've been talking about not doing that and becoming tentative on beam when something happens, but it's one thing to train it. We have to get better at that."
"We came in here wanting to be aggressive," DiLuzio said. "It was a good road score for us but we have to do better on the beam."
In short » The Utes lose their fourth straight meet at Florida to snap a three-meet win streak.
Key moment » The Utes have a chance at an upset when Florida's leadoff gymnast on floor falls, but the Utes have their own troubles on the balance beam to fall behind the Gators.
Key stat » Both teams had season bests. Florida tied its season high and Utah scored its season best road score.
All-Around » Marissa King (Florida) 39.575
Vault » Nicole Ellis (Florida) 9.925
Uneven bars » Amanda Castillo (Florida) 9.95
Balance beam » Marissa King (Florida) 9.9
Floor » Ashanee Dickerson (Florida) 9.95
First rotation » Florida 49.4, Utah 49.175
Second rotation » Florida 98.925, Utah 98.375
Third rotation » Florida 148.125, Utah 147.65
Fourth rotation » Florida 197.55, Utah 196.5