Third-ranked Utah stayed undefeated with a 195.825-194.24 win over the Cougars in front of 3,658 at the Marriott Center, but had to count falls on the floor and beam.
Utah has had to count a fall in each of its five road meets this year. Unfortunately for the Utes, the NCAA regional championships and NCAA
Championships aren't in the comfy confines of the Huntsman Center. The
regional site has yet to be determined and the NCAAs are at Oregon State.
The Utes have just one more chance to prove they can go on the road and win without a fall, but that opportunity doesn't come until March 17 at second-ranked Florida.
"This doesn't feel like we beat them," junior Nicolle Ford said. "This is ridiculous. We should have it down by now. Something has to change because we can't compete at nationals like this."
After opening with a 49.25 on the bars, Utah set a season high on the vault, scoring a 49.475 with Nina Kim (9.925) and Kristina Baskett (9.975) earning career highs.
The Utes seemed ready to banish the road woes, but as it has so many times in previous meets here, had trouble on BYU's floor as both Gabi Onodi and Gritt Hofmann fell.
Hofmann used her new/old routine, going back to the popular River Dance routine of two years ago. Her hand slipped off her leg on her first pass, the same scenario in which Postell fell on the event a week ago.
The high score was a 9.8 from Ford.
The same gymnasts fell off the beam, but Ford (9.925) and Postell (9.975) ended the rotation with big scores for the Utes, helping the Utes to a 48.55.
"It was nerve-racking and intense," Ford said. "I felt like Greg [Marsden], I had to leave the arena and take a walk down the tunnel."
After its first two events, Utah was on track to get a good enough score to move back to No. 2 in the national rankings with its showdown against No. 1 Georgia up next. Instead, Florida will stay second with a regional qualifying score of 196.17 when the rankings are released Monday and Utah will be just .01 behind, at 196.16.
However, despite its undefeated mark and high ranking, Marsden is concerned his team doesn't belong in the group of national contenders until it proves itself on the road.
"We're not going to compete against the better teams this way," he said. "Right now, against five other good teams at nationals, this isn't going to cut it."
Unfortunately, Utah's problems aren't from any one gymnast, a situation easily fixed by a change in the lineup. At Michigan, Kim and Hofmann fell off the beam, at Arizona State it was Postell and Baskett who fell on the floor. At Washington it was Onodi and Riffanacht on the beam and at UCLA it was Postell and Katie Kivisto on the bars.
"It's not a physical thing," Marsden said. "They have to decide to get tough as a group and do what needs to be done. It's a totally different team when we're away from the Huntsman Center and that is disappointing. There, you've got 12,000 fans pumping you up and getting that adrenaline going. We can't seem to do that for ourselves, and I accept responsibility for that. I'm not doing a good enough job of preparing them."
Remarkably, considering Utah has faced top competition on the road in UCLA and Michigan, Utah hasn't taken itself out of a meet by doing just enough to win. Those situations brought a certain sense of satisfaction to the team then, but judging by the looks on their faces Friday, it's getting old.
"We definitely like to fight, and especially in road meets we've fought to win," Postell said. "Luckily in the end we've pulled through, but we're capable of more."
BYU opened the meet with its best showing of the year on vault, scoring 49.9 as Brittany Fischer (9.7), Sierra Jacobs (9.85), Hayley Jensen (9.8) and Dayna Smart (9.875) all earning career highs.
But the Cougars had problems on the bars, scoring just 47.625.
"I feel a little like Greg," BYU coach Brad Cattermole said. "It's the story of our season. Last week we were great on bars and bad on vault. We can't keep doing this."