After an NCAA-record gymnastics crowd of 15,552 in the Huntsman Center for Utah's Jan. 22 win over Georgia, the Utes found out last week that they perhaps relied too much on the audience for their energy.
They were flat at Washington last Friday — still a 195.85-194.65 win — and practices this week have been all about finding a way to create their own excitement since Friday night's 7:30 meet at Arizona State will have an atmosphere similar to the one in Seattle last week.
"When you walk into the Huntsman, it's just so exciting and overwhelming, and to go to a meet like Seattle with not as many fans, it does make a difference. But it shouldn't," said sophomore Stephanie McAllister, who made her collegiate all-around debut at Washington and scored 39.10.
The 3-1 Utes, who fell to the No. 4 ranking this week with that low score, will vie with one of their oldest rivals Friday, but coach John Spini's Sun Devils rank only 26th this week, lower than Washington, and have a 1-5 record. Utah last lost to ASU in 2003, 197.45-197.15, but has won seven straight since then and has not fallen to ASU in Tempe since 2000.
More than just another win, though, the Utes need to catch some fire on the road and score well, since the rankings will soon turn to Regional Qualifying Score, which counts three road scores in its average. They don't have any substantial road scores yet. A good RQS can result in easier opponents in the NCAA regional competition.
"We've got to do a better job of creating that intensity ourselves and not relying on external forces to do that for us," said coach Greg Marsden.
"Come with enthusiasm and intensity rather than just kind of going through the motions.
"It was a little bit of a disappointment," he said of the Washington meet, "but it was just something that we've learned now to try to do a better job with."
Co-coach Megan Marsden said it's a matter of mentally tightening as a group. "We feel like they're just a touch scattered and there needs to be a little more intentional focus on us, our group, on each routine, to create just intensity with our group in a situation where there's not a lot of outside stimulus. We need to create it on our own (with) our cheering and helping each other during the meet."
Greg Marsden said he's not contemplating many lineup changes, though Jaq Johnson and Cortni Beers may move Kyndal Robarts out of bars. Robarts went all-around in three of the first four meets. Johnson did bars at Washington and scored 9.75, and Beers was in the bars lineup the first three meets. Marsden was not sure if he would keep Gael Mackie in the floor lineup as she's only hit once, but he's not sure he has a reliable replacement right now.
There will be an adjustment in senior Jamie Deetcreek's floor routine as she attempts to avoid deductions she's gotten the last two weeks for a leap. The Ute coaches have studied video and rules and say the stag leap she's been doing (with knees intentionally bent) should be OK, but the last two judging panels devalued her for it, so she will do a leap with legs straight from now on. The stag leap, said Megan Marsden, was just being done for variety's sake.
Utah at Arizona State
Today, 7:30 p.m.