Tom Smart, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Yes, Ute senior Annie DiLuzio found her smile. She even said it helped to calm her.
"It just keeps me a little bit more relaxed instead of so serious," she said Friday night right after scoring 9.95 on floor as the last competitor of an up-and-down night for the University of Utah's gymnastics team as it defeated a much-depleted Utah State 196.225-178.25 in the Huntsman Center. "I thought I smiled a lot more tonight. Maybe not on bars yet, but I tried to smile."
It was the lowest score by a Ute opponent since 1994, but the 50th-ranked Aggies have so many injuries they could only put four competitors on the floor and only have five each on vault and beam.
Knowing 1-8 USU would not present a challenge, the No. 4-ranked Utes decided to throw in some upgrades.
Some worked. Some didn't in Utah's only home meet in February.
"Well, it was a mixed bag," said coach Greg Marsden. "There were some really good things tonight. Some people stepped forward or moved forward and accomplished kind of what we wanted to. Some of those worked well, and some of those we struggled with a little bit, so obviously we've still got some work to do there."
Utah also had to replace junior Gael Mackie in two events as she sprained an ankle in practice last week.
The way DiLuzio's been coming on – she scored 9.65 in just her second bars exhibition routine in several years – she may work herself into that lineup, too. With the 9.95 on floor, 9.875 on vault and 9.825 on beam, she'd have had a 39.20 in the all-around, which would have tied her with Ute senior Jamie Deetscreek for first in this meet since senior Daria Bijak had a difficult bars routine and let it get to her on beam, too, and junior Kyndal Robarts tailed off in the last two events after two good events to start.
"It was fun," DiLuzio said of her night. "It's what I've been trying to do, focus on the mental aspects of it but at the same time enjoy what I'm doing."
USU's best was Heather Heinrich with 38.775. The 9.80 scored on bars by Rebecca Holliday, in her first routine of any event this season, was the best score of the season for Utah State.
"Daria changed her bar routine," said Marsden, "and to be honest, it wasn't so much the changes that created the problem. "We had talked a lot about hitting handstands, especially at the end of routines, and she went for that. It's hard for me to be overly critical – she went for it and just went over on it. So it was a mistake, but it was a mistake from being aggressive and trying to do what we have talked about that we need to do better."
Bijak was so frustrated, said Marsden, that she wasn't in a good place on beam and fell, but she came back to tie her career high on floor at 9.95 after composing herself better.
Deetscreek also had difficulty with a change. She totaled 9.70 on floor after getting 9.775 on vault, 9.825 on beam and 9.90 on bars.
"We're really trying to upgrade her tumbling," Marsden said, "and she didn't miss it, but it didn't look strong tonight. It was underdone, and she landed short and stepped forward out of it. Again, it's difficult for me to say I'm disappointed because it's a pretty big upgrade. We're taking her first pass and making it her last pass and really changed that routine around."
He expects it to take a couple of weeks before she's comfortable with the change.
Robarts had a 9.90 vault and a career-best 9.85 bars but made big steps on beam following the Bijak fall and went out of bounds on floor.
Positives included senior Beth Rizzo kicking off the floor with 9.80 as she comes back from an ankle injury on that event that kept her out all last season, continued progress from Jacq Johnson on bars and Cortni Beers' career high on bars (9.80), "She's getting stronger and more confident as the year goes on. I'm really pleased with her progress," Marsden said of Beers.
Utah State hosts Southern Utah Monday night, and Utah goes back on the road to Michigan next Friday.
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