Senior Nansy Damianova's 10.0 on floor in her final Huntsman Center routine capped a 198.025-197.600 Utah win over Georgia.
March 15, 2014
SALT LAKE CITY--
This gymnastics meet had to be seen to be believed and since there wasn't room for another body in the house, it's lucky the Pac-12 Networks televised the Utah-Georgia showdown to a live audience. In a perfectly scripted finish for the home team, No. 5 Utah beat No. 6 Georgia 198.025-197.600 before an oversold Huntsman Center crowd of 15,224. It was a season-high score and the fifth-best score in school history for the Utes, who finished the regular season with a 10-3 overall record.
Locked in a tie with its fierce SEC rival with just three competitors remaining for each team, Utah poured it on down the stretch and the crowd, raucous all night long, went wild when senior Nansy Damianova scored a 10.0 on the floor in her final Huntsman Center routine. Georgia Dabritz had actually clinched the victory for Utah one routine earlier with a 9.95, and her gem was preceded by a 9.925 by Becky Tutka. But Damianova's 10.0 was the icing on the cake.
"I didn't have a perfect start because I tried too hard on bars," said Damianova. "My goal was to go out and have fun on floor, which is my favorite event. I've been waiting for that 10.0 for so long, so it was very emotional to finally get it."
Damianova's 10.0 was the second in two weeks for the Utes, with Dabritz receiving her first perfect score on floor last week at Michigan.
Before the Utes iced the victory on the floor, they had already won in the stands. Utah finished the year with a school and NCAA gymnastics-record 14,376 attendance average to win its 30th gymnastics attendance title and its fourth all-sports women's attendance title. The crowd of 15,224, the sixth largest in school history, easily pushed Utah past Alabama gymnastics (12,826 season average) and Tennessee women's basketball (11,600 average) for the title.
"It's unbelievable the support we get here. It's such an important part of our program," said coach Greg Marsden. "A big part of why many of our gymnasts come here is that crowd out there and the support we get from our university and the community."
No one left disappointed as the Utes and the Gym Dogs went toe-to-toe from start to finish. "Georgia is a great team and they did a great job tonight. It's exciting for us because that's the challenge you want, especially at the end of the season. We beat a very good team that was at or near its best tonight," said Marsden.
Marsden and his gymnasts were especially happy about the balance beam, where Utah exploded for a season-high 49.500. "We've been waiting for that beam score. I've been saying that we need to get beam to around a 49.300 (to compete for a title) and we did that and more."
Said Tory Wilson, who along with teammate Kailah Delaney and Georgia's Lindsey Cheek, tied for beam with career-high 9.925 scores, "That beam was what we do every day in practice. We've stepped up our mental game and it's finally starting to show up in competition."
Wilson and Delaney also tied for first on vault, as did Dabritz, with a 9.95. Their string of 9.95s to finish the set gave the Utes a lead they never relinquished, although it steadily dwindled until late in the last rotation.
After taking a 49.575-49.325 first-event lead (Utah on vault and Georgia on bars), Georgia closed to within a tenth of a point on the second rotation, 98.950-98.850.
Ironically, the Utes picked up only another half tenth on their dominating beam performance; one that saw all six Utes score a 9.85 or better, with a 9.90 from Mary Beth Lofgren and 9.925s from Wilson and Delaney. That Utah led by just a tenth and a half (148.450-148.300) heading into the final rotation was due to a season-best 49.45 on floor by Georgia.
When UGA's Brittany Rogers scored a 9.90 on beam as the No. 3 beam worker, the Gym Dogs moved into a tie with the Utes. But when Tutka (9.925), Dabritz (9.95) and Damianova (10.0) went on a tear, Georgia was countering with a (non-counting) 9.45, a 9.925 an a 9.80, securing the victory for the Utes.
Next up for the Utes are the Pac-12 Championships on Saturday, Mar. 22 in Berkeley, Calif.