It was the last road meet for the Utes (10-2) and the final meet of the regular season for the Gators (16-2), so a win would mean the difference between valuable momentum and low morale going into respective conference tournaments.
"We've struggled on the road all year, but to be honest, this is our best effort yet," Utah coach Greg Marsden said. "We're using this as a
confidence-builder, where we can come into this kind of environment and do such a good job."
But the Utes' best road score of the season wasn't enough to match Florida's highest score of the season and the fifth-highest score in school history.
However, the Utes still managed to dominate the all-around, capped by a 39.650 by sophomore Ashley Postell, who also captured the first place on the vault (9.925) and uneven bars (9.925). Nina Kim was second in the all-around at 39.350 and Kristina Baskett was third at 39.075.
The Utes opened the night on the uneven bars, earning their fourth-highest score of the season with a 49.30, but fell behind early. Stumbles on landings by senior Dominique D'Oliveira and Jessica Duke kept Utah from taking an early lead.
But D'Oliveira said she was confident in her routine heading into the postseason.
"I'd been having trouble with my dismounts," she said. "But I've found a dismount that works for me and I'm pretty confident that it's just going to get better."
But the Gators took advantage of Utah's early flaws, opening with arguably their strongest event, the vault, and never looked back.
Florida's career-best scores from Samantha Lutz (first on balance beam at 9.925) and Nicola Willis (first on floor at 9.950) put Utah away, but the loss didn't reflect a bad performance for the team, D'Oliveira said.
Utah will play host to BYU next Friday at 7 p.m.