As University of Utah gymnast Ashley Postell had predicted last week, all the Utes needed to do was get into competition to shake off the rust of a long finals week/holiday layoff.
Their first two performers of the night Saturday at UCLA exhibited some nerves, with scores of 8.575 and 9.0, but that didn't take the Utes out of the season's first meet. It may have inspired them.
From then on, said coach Greg Marsden by telephone from Pauley Pavilion, the No. 2-ranked Utes got aggressive and roared back to win their season opener 194.875-193.85 over No. 3-ranked UCLA, which already had one six-team meet in Hawaii and held a 5-0 record.
"It was a great starting meet," Marsden said. "What I told the team was I was proud of the way they fought back because starting the meet like that two falls was really tough psychologically, and I was pleased that the last four people (on the first event, bars) didn't let that affect them. They got up there and were aggressive.
"We didn't back off of anything tonight," said Marsden, who had worried since the end of the holiday break that some of his team was not ready to compete.
UCLA's Kate Richardson won the all-around despite an odd second tumbling pass with just one skill, scoring 9.475 in the event but 39.275 for a four-event total. Utah junior Nicolle Ford was second with 39.20, and Ute freshman Nina Kim took third at 38.625, which included a fall on her final tumbling pass when she made what Marsden called "a freshman mistake." She has two options on the pass and got caught in between them.
Freshman Kristina Baskett scored 9.8 on vault, 9.875 on bars and 9.825 on floor.
Fifth-year Ute senior Gritt Hofmann lived up to Marsden's pre-meet proclamations of how strong she's looked with 9.825 on floor and 9.775 on beam as well as a 9.7 vault in Utah's first attempt at the new code of points, which devalued a number of skills and asks for more difficulty in a number of places.
Sophomore Jessica Duke, another about whom Marsden had talked glowingly last week, had 9.8s on her first two events and 9.725 on floor. She fell on beam, but Marsden wasn't upset as it was from an aggressive attitude and not from being tentative on the event, and he says errors like those are correctable in practice.
Postell, not yet in competitive shape following a torn elbow medial collateral ligament less than two months ago, had trouble on bars and scored 9.0, arms collapsing on the low bar resulting in a fall. She had 9.75s on vault and beam.
Both teams were short-handed due to medical issues, the Bruins missing sisters Tasha and Jordan Schwikert, who each had shoulder surgery within the last few months, and Utah's Postell was limited, Rachel Tidd may be out for the season with back problems and Kristen Riffanacht was held out to give her high-ankle sprain more time to heal.
This is the second straight time Utah has won its season opener at UCLA in the last three seasons. UCLA, ranked No. 1, won in Salt Lake City last year.
Marsden liked the outcome Saturday but said he told Bruin coach Valorie Kondos-Field that, "What we accomplish is, we make them mad" with the wins at Pauley.Utah travels to Washington Friday and makes its home debut Jan. 20 with Nebraska.
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