Utah’s gymnastics team closed out the regular season with a 197.275-196.5 win over Utah State on Friday in the Huntsman Center. Now, the real season begins.
It’s no secret the Utes keep their focus on the spring championship meets even as they compete each week. There might be some satisfaction in beating teams like the Aggies and certainly going through the Pac-12 undefeated is to be celebrated, but in reality all the regular-season meets are chances to prepare for the postseason.
Utah can be comfortable in its position going into the postseason given its consistency. The only loss was to Oklahoma and the Utes have posted 197s in their last seven meets, including Friday’s win.
They’ve also been very good under pressure, particularly on the balance beam.
So what to make of Friday’s meet? It would have been nice if the Utes had been able to finish the season with yet another big performance to reinforce the thought they are ready to challenge for championships that begin with the Pac-12 Championships on March 20 at the Maverik Center, but the usual flashy showings that make up many season finales never came to fruition.
This team was satisfied in the past with breaking the 197 barrier, but the Utes have grown accustomed to much more of late as they’ve won in convincing fashion.
Friday’s showing was disappointing, even frustrating based on Sydney Soloski’s comments.
“This was our worst team performance and not an indication of what we are capable of,” she said. “Our team didn’t show up tonight and it’s really disappointing knowing how much hard work is being put in the gym and it isn’t translating over. We have a lot to do this week.”
Utah coach Tom Farden echoed Soloski’s thoughts. The Utes had a good week of practice so Friday’s effort caught him by surprise, he said.
“We misfired too many times,” Farden said. “We are trying to put a finger on it as a staff.”
The Utes weren’t clean on several vault and uneven bars landings. The biggest surprises though were mistakes on floor where Cristal Isa (9.2) and Adrienne Randall (9.65) struggled.
The Utes could have used the rigors of the season as an excuse, especially since they just completed a difficult stretch of home wins against UCLA and Cal and a big road victory at Oregon State, but Soloski would have none of that.
“It was 100 percent a mental mistake of not having enough heart on the floor and trusting their gymnastics,” she said. “It’s extremely disappointing because I watch these kids hit 9.9 in the gym day after day and it’s not happening on the floor.”
Soloski’s comments might be a bit harsh, considering what the Utes have accomplished this year, but that’s probably her driving force too. She has been around long enough to know what it takes to win championships. The Utes have the physical talent to do so, they believe. But this is the time of year when it takes a big mental push, too.
Soloski and Farden are both savvy enough to use a showing such as Friday’s to poke the Utes a bit, make sure they are focused and also determined to perform to their max abilities.
In that sense, Friday’s showing could do more for the Utes in prepping for the postseason than a big win that might have made it too easy to relax.
Such backing off won’t be happening this week now.
“We definitely took a dip,” Farden said.
Vault: Lucy Stanhope (Utah) 9.9
Uneven bars: Maile O’Keefe (Utah) 9.9
Balance beam: Maile O’Keefe (Utah) 9.95
Floor: Sydney Soloski (Utah) 9.95
All-around: Leighton Varnadore (Utah State) 39.15