March 7, 2014
ANN ARBOR, Mich.--
If tonight's meet in Michigan's Crisler Arena had been the NCAA Championships rather than a regular-season showdown, the Utah gymnasts might be headed into the Super Six. Instead, the No. 6 Utes scored a 197.350 to finish third behind Michigan (197.825) and UCLA (197.475), and await a dual meet against Georgia on Mar. 15.
Just two tenths of a point separated the three top-10 teams heading into the final event, which for Utah was its best event--the vault. But Michigan finished strong on the floor on its senior night and Utah had one and a half hops too many on landings to pass UCLA.
Despite finishing third, Ute coach Greg Marsden was pleased at his team's performance under postseason-like conditions.
"This was a great meet for us to be in at this point of the year," said Marsden. "Even though we finished third, it was good for our confidence because we left a few tenths out there that could have let us at least take second place. We didn't let a fall on bars and beam bother us and our demeanor on beam is getting better. If we can find a few more tenths on beam, we're right there."
Utah scored a 49.00 on beam to a 49.300 by UCLA and a 49.275 by Michigan.
Utah was also not quite as sharp on vault as it has been this season. "It's hard to complain about a 49.375, but I will," laughed Marsden, whose team has been ranked No. 1 on vault for most of the season and is currently No. 2. "We were good, but we were trying too hard to stick landings."
One thing is for sure. He's not going to get any more tenths out of junior Georgia Dabritz--at least on the floor exercise, where she scored the Utes' first 10.0 of the season. Dabritz, who had scored three 9.975s on floor this season, where she is currently ranked No. 2 in the nation, also won bars with a 9.95.
All three teams got off to a blistering start, with the Wolverines scoring a 49.475 on vault only to have Utah (49.425 on bars) and UCLA (49.30 on beam) hot on their heels. On Utah's first routine of the night, Breanna Hughes popped for a season-high and career-tying 9.90, a score matched by Nansy Damianova three routines later. Damianova's routine was especially impressive given she was so sick on Thursday that she couldn't travel with the team. She flew to Michigan Friday morning and got to the team hotel about an hour before the Utes left for the meet. After Damianova's routine, Dabritz knocked it out of the park from her sixth position, scoring a 9.95, which would hold up as the top score of the night.
Utah gained ground on the third rotation, positioning itself for a run at both teams. Utah's last four competitors all went 9.90 or better with Wilson scoring a 9.90 and Tutka a 9.925 before Dabritz's perfect score. Damianova, questionable on floor until pre-meet warm-ups when it was determined she was strong enough to do a routine, finished a big 49.550 set with a 9.925. The meet was anyone's game heading into the final round, with Michigan (148.175), UCLA (148.150) and Utah (147.975) within two tenths of a point of each other.
The Utes weren't quite clean enough on vault to move out of third, with only Delaney (9.925) sticking her landing. Dabritz scored a 9.90 to finish a nice night that saw her win two events--floor (10.0) and bars (9.95) --along with her 9.90 vault score.
Utah hosts Georgia next Saturday at 7 p.m. in the final regular-season meet of the year. The Utes will honor seniors Lia Del Priore, Damianova, Hailee Hansen and Mary Beth Lofgren in a pre-meet ceremony at 6:45 p.m.