Gainesville, Fla. » In setting the scene for tonight's meet against No. 5 Florida here in Gainesville, Utah coach Greg Marsden didn't do much bluffing about his team's chances.
"They've had a week off to rest and get healthy and prepare, and this is their tune-up for the SEC Championships the following week, and it's their senior night," he said. "So we have about a snowball's chance in hell."
At least that snowball is a little bigger now than it was a few weeks ago when the No. 9 Utes (10-2) were losing at Michigan and struggling to win at BYU. Since then, the Utes have put up some of their best efforts in beating Nebraska and posting a season-high 196.975 to win a quad meet last week.
Even so, the Utes know from past experience that winning at Florida is a difficult task. The Utes haven't won in Gainesville since 2001 and have lost their past three meets.
Asked what she remembered most about their last two losses there, senior Annie DiLuzio didn't have to think long.
"The scores," she said. "Going to the SEC, they're definitely lower. We have to keep everybody focused on our routines and staying confident in what we do and not focus on those."
Florida (8-2) has had some of its best meets recently, scoring above 197 in two of its past three competitions and hasn't lost at home this season.
"They are a very good team," Marsden said. "It's hard for anybody to go into the SEC with a good program like an Alabama, Georgia or Florida and expect to come away with a win."
While sneaking out a victory would be nice, the Utes see tonight's meet as a bigger opportunity. If all goes well at the Regional Championships on April 10, Utah will qualify for the NCAA Championships, which Florida is hosting from April 22-24.
Competing at Florida so late in the season should give the Utes at least some familiarity with the arena and the Florida fans, who average 6,058 strong a meet.
Marsden said the regular-season meet was scheduled before the NCAA site was announced.
"I wish I could take credit for that great strategy, but I can't," he said. "But we are going to take advantage of it. It'll be very different a month from now since it will be on a podium and with new equipment, but it will be the same facility. I don't know how much it helps, but it can't hurt."
The Utes are averaging 196.525 in their home meets and just 195.695 on the road, but are feeling much better about their gymnastics after two good meets.
"We're definitely headed in the right direction," DiLuzio said. "Everyone feels good; we're motivated to work on little things since we have only five weeks left."
To finish their road schedule with a good showing, regardless of the outcome, is the goal for Marsden, he said.
"We are beginning to show what we are capable of doing and we just have to continue to get better and peak at the right time, at the end of the year," he said. "I hope we haven't run out of time. Even though we've gotten better in the last couple weeks, we still need to improve."
Tonight, 5 p.m.
About the meet » Gael Mackie is expected to return to the lineup after being sidelined for three weeks with an ankle injury.