Utah gymnastics: Close, very close
Annie DiLuzio didn't know if her team was ahead or behind or what she needed to score for the Utah Utes to end their losing streak to Georgia Friday. She only had one thought going through her mind as she prepared for her floor routine.
"One thing at a time," she said. "That is what I always think."
Her routine was as sharp as her focus. The senior scored a 9.875 in the last performance of the night to lift the No. 6 Utes past No. 10 Georgia 196.55-196.50 in front of an NCAA-record crowd of 15,552 at the Huntsman Center.
The win was Utah's first over the Gym Dogs since 2008 and gave the Utes a 6-5 advantage against their rival in regular-season meetings.
"It was just an amazing feeling," DiLuzio said of her last performance. "I had no idea what the scores were. I didn't see much of what they were doing, but could just hear the crowd when someone falls. I had no idea it was that close."
It was so close that not even the teams knew for sure what the outcome was. While the Utes were working toward a 49.125 effort on the floor, Georgia was doing all it could to spoil the home team's fun by scoring a 49.325 on the beam.
"I was ready for the outcome to go either way," Utah coach Greg Marsden said. "It was unpredictable going into that last routine. I felt good about it, even if it had turned the other way, I felt good about the team."
The Utes' performance continued their upward curve that Marsden deemed the most important goal for the night, but beating the Gym Dogs in front of a near-capacity crowd made it that much more fun, he said.
It was a win that seemed certain at the start, possibly out of reach at the midpoint then tenuous at the end.
The meet started off about as well as the Utes could hope when they scored a 49.325 on the vault, led by Kyndal Robarts' 9.95. Meanwhile on the uneven bars, the Gym Dogs recovered from a fall by their leadoff gymnast to score a 49.25.
But the Utes lost their advantage on the next rotation in which they notched a 49.0, with a high of 9.85 by Daria Bijak. It was a season high for the team on the bars, but not enough to hold back Georgia, which earned a 49.15 on the vault to give the Gym Dogs a 98.4-98.325 margin at the halfway point.
The Utes were in a dire situation when Stephanie McAllister, the leadoff on beam, fell, scoring just a 9.1.
The Utes could have folded under the pressure. Instead, they made up for McAllister's mistake by scoring 9.75 or higher through the rest of the lineup. The team high was a 9.9 by Jamie Deetscreek.
That was enough to give the Utes a 147.425-147.175 margin going into the final rotation.
As usual, Marsden didn't watch the beam rotation, but received updates sequestered inside the Utes' locker room.
"They handled it out there probably better than I handled it in here," he said. "My stomach was turning over."
Both Marsden and Georgia coach Jay Clark felt their teams "grew up," performing under the pressure of such a close meet. The two teams, who have combined to win 20 of the last 34 NCAA titles, predicted they would both be there at the end of season, possibly setting up a Round 2 between the titans at the NCAA Championships.
"They've had our number for a long time," Marsden said. "Give them a lot of credit. They went to beam and rocked it and made this a very close meet. I didn't know until they announced the scores who won, but we've been on the short end a lot of times. It's nice to be on this side for a change."
In short » Utah uses its best performance on the balance beam of the season to overtake Georgia for its first win over the Gym Dogs since 2008.
Key stat » The Utes make it through their third meet without counting a fall.
Key moment » Annie DiLuzio scores a 9.875 on floor to clinch the meet for the Utes.
All-around » Daria Bijak (Utah) 39.375
Vault » Kyndal Robarts (Utah) 9.95
Uneven bars » Kat Ding (Georgia) 9.9
Balance beam » Courtney McCool (Georgia) 9.925
Floor » Daria Bijak (Utah) 9.95