Utes win despite errors
Big steps, falls and unsure performances - Utah's second-ranked gymnastics team had just the kind of meet coach Greg Marsden was worried about seeing from his team after a week off from competition.
Luckily for the Utes, Friday's meet might have been the anomaly in a season that has produced one great performance after another, but at least the outcome was the same as they defeated No. 7 Oregon State 196.300-195.150 even with a subpar showing in front of 11,835 at the Huntsman Center.
Utah's score was the lowest since it opened the season with the same score in a win over Georgia.
"I don't know if it was an off night or because of that week," said junior Kristina Baskett, who won the all-around with a 39.25. "It was just a lot of dumb mistakes, nothing we can't fix."
The Utes (10-0) started well, tying their season best on vault with a 49.55, thanks to 9.95s from Baskett and Ashley Postell and a season-best-tying 9.9 from Nina Kim. The opening was enough to give them a lot of room over Oregon State (9-3), which opened with a 48.875 on the uneven bars. In the end, they needed that room as what could have been a big blowout nearly turned into a big collapse.
Utah's troubles started on the uneven bars. Baskett had a break and scored just 9.65, and Postell fell, earning only a 8.85. Without their normally big scores, the Utes earned a season low 48.9 on the event.
Postell's fall was her first of the season and rattled the senior. She fell off balance beam and was pulled from the floor lineup.
"It just wasn't a good night," Postell said. "I can't do what I've been doing all the time."
Utah's breaks, plus Oregon State's 49.275 on the vault, were enough to draw the Beavers to within 98.45-97.95 after two rotations.
"It was like we had a week off and we haven't been doing this for eight or nine weeks," Marsden said. "Even in warm-ups it felt different; we struggled."
The Utes led 147.325-146.875 going into the final rotation. Ending on floor has been no problem for the Utes this year, but like everything else, it was a struggle Friday. Beth Rizzo stumbled and Daria Bijak fell, scoring 9.6 and 9.325, respectively.
"I was watching and thinking, 'This is pretty bad, we are off tonight,' " Kim said. "Then I said, 'Wait a minute, weren't we like this all last year?' "
Yes and no - last year, the Utes would probably have kept piling up the mistakes on floor and lost the meet. Instead, Annie DiLuzio earned a 9.9 and Baskett had a 9.875 to keep the Beavers from getting a big upset.
The Utes got some help from the Beavers too, as they had their own struggles.
Their anchor on floor, Tasha Smith, landed short and couldn't finish her routine, while breaks elsewhere prevented the Beavers from scoring above a 49.0 on everything except vault (49.275).
"Everything has looked so easy for us, and tonight it looked like we had to fight for everything," Marsden said. "We had to fight through things, but we didn't let it get away from us and we kept battling."
The Utes did get some strong performances from other places in the lineup. Kim led the team with a 9.85 on the balance beam to go along with her 9.9 on vault, Gael Mackie won the uneven bars with a 9.875 and Kyndal Robarts, who missed the UCLA meet with a knee injury, scored 9.875 on vault and 9.8 on the balance beam. Sophomore Stephanie Neff, who missed the last four meets with an Achilles strain, took Postell's place in the floor lineup and scored 9.8.
Acknowledging those routines, Marsden said he wasn't too upset with his team for having an off night, hoping it would serve as motivation.
"There were a lot of good things," Marsden said. "We could dwell on the things that weren't as good, but it wouldn't be a total representation of the meet."