Utah gymnastics: Struggling Utes not panicking
The Utah Utes are ranked in the bottom half of the top 10, they've had to count falls in their last two meets and have suffered two losses for the first time since the 2007 season.
With just four regular season meets left, including tonight's against No. 11 Nebraska (13-2), is it time for the Utes to start panicking?
Are the Utes (6-2), who haven't finished lower than third at the NCAA Championships the last five years running, in danger of missing the NCAA Championships altogether for the first time in the program's history?
Not a chance, they say.
While they aren't where they want to be, they say they don't have that far to go to reach that level.
That might sound like the Utes, who are coming off a 195.925-194.375 win at BYU are shrugging off a dire situation, but that isn't the case said Utah coach Greg Marsden.
"I go through the videos after the last three meets and every week I'm disappointed," Marsden said. "But when I go through the videos I feel like we are so close if we quit making untimely mistakes. Even the other night with Stephanie [MCAllister's] fall at BYU, if Annie [DiLuzio] stays on the beam we are in the 196.5 range which we would have been thrilled with."
The problem for the Utes is that the trouble spots have been inconsistent. Beam started out as one of the best events but has been troublesome lately. Sophomore Stephanie McAllister is struggling and other very reliable gymnasts have been falling.
"We've had weird issues happening," junior Kyndal Robarts said. "They are fluky things that have been happening, but consistently fluky things. Hopefully we can figure it out."
The Utes knew there would be some issues this year, after all teams don't lose strong gymnasts and personalities such as Kristina Baskett and Nina Kim without some adjustments.
Even with four seniors, the team is relatively young, senior Beth Rizzo pointed out.
"We've experienced so much success over the last five years, we've only had a couple times where we've had to battle like this so this team isn't very experienced at doing that," she said. "I do believe we have that sense of urgency we need. We come to the gym with it, it's just mentally being able to maintain that through the week and the meets as well."
The good news for them is they still have plenty of time to finish strong against top competition. After tonight's meet against the Huskers, the Utes have a quad-meet next week against Oregon State, Penn State and SUU then travel to Florida which also hosts the NCAA Championships.
The regular season wraps up at home against BYU on March 26. Utah will get the benefit of a home crowd for the crucial regional championships as the host.
Marsden said this season reminds him of the 2007 year when the Utes struggled with consistency, lost three regular-season meets but put things together in time to finish second in the NCAA Championships.
"The key is always peaking at the right time," he said. "I do feel cautiously optimistic we can do that if we get everybody healthy at the end and get a little confidence."
Figuring out just how to put it altogether is the sticking point though, Rizzo admitted.
"We've been practicing well, we just need to carry over what we do in practice to competition," Rizzo said. "That is where our season is mentally right now, it's 'How can we put it together and build and get the ball rolling and keep it that way.' "
Today, 7 p.m.
About the meet » Gael Mackie (ankle) and Katelyn Mohr (back) are doubtful for the meet. Maria Scaffidi (39.3) is the Huskers' best all-around competitor.
Elsewhere » Utah State and BYU travel to Boise State for a tri-meet tonight. ... SUU competes at Iowa on Sunday.
Records » Nebraska 13-2, Utah 6-2.