Utah’s gymnastics team has had a good season so far. The Utes have suffered just two losses, been ranked in the top four all season, broke a longstanding losing streak at UCLA and avoided any major injuries.
Yet they felt they still have enough improvement to do that they met with their sport psychologist as a team last week because there was a gnawing sense they can do more.
“We’ve reached the goals we had, but we need to go to the next step,” junior Kari Lee said. “We need to go that extra mile.”
The Utes decided they needed to spend a lot more time focusing on sticking landings and working on the small details.
“We needed higher standards,” Lee said.
The fourth-ranked Utes will find out Saturday if the extra prep has made a difference when they compete at No. 7 Michigan.
Competing at Michigan historically has been a challenge for the Utes, who are 4-7 in Ann Arbor. Throw in the fact that the Wolverines are undefeated at home this season and are hungry for a win after losing to top-ranked Oklahoma last week, and Utah’s challenge of winning seems bigger than ever.
“We know it’s going to be a challenge,” senior Tiffani Lewis said. “But we’ve gotten more intense in the gym and focusing where we want to be when the postseason comes.”
There is a good and bad element of competing at Michigan. Win and the Utes will get a shot of confidence similar to their win at UCLA. Lose and suddenly the Utes are on their first losing streak since 2012, when they lost to Nebraska and Florida to close out the season.
Back-to-back losses could be a big hit to the Utes, who finish the regular season at home against longtime rival Georgia on March 16.
But no matter the outcome, Utah coach Megan Marsden said the meet would be good for her team.
“We know we have a target on our back,” she said. “Their athletes are going to be geared up for us and it’s their senior night, so all those things will play into it. But if our team wants to do what they want to do in the postseason, then we have to be able to go into places like this and battle. We want to go in and get a high road score and battle for the win. If we are in the 196.4 range that isn’t good. But if we battle and it is in the mid 197s, then to me that is a great competition.”
NO. 4 UTAH AT NO. 7 MICHIGAN
When • Noon MT Saturday
TV • Big Ten Network
Records • Utah 8-2, 5-1; Michigan 10-2-1, 4-1
Of note • The Utes are 4-7 in Ann Arbor but won their last meeting there in 2016. … Michigan is 5-0 at home, including a win over No. 6 Alabama. … Michigan’s season high is 197.55. … The Wolverines’ top all-around performer is Paige Zaziski (39.575). … Utah’s MyKyla Skinner is expected to compete in the all-around after sitting out floor and vault at Cal to rest a sore ankle.