Utah Utes gymnastics: Team expects tough challenge, but friendly fans at Michigan

Published: Friday, Feb. 19 2010 12:00 a.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah gymnastics coach Greg Marsden looks at the schedule and sees three, maybe four opponents ahead that can really put the pressure on his fifth-ranked Utes to perform their "very best to win.

"It's an opportunity that we need to take advantage of," he said, as the Utes are about to meet one of those tough teams when they compete tonight at 5:30 MST at Michigan. "These types of situations are important for us now."

The Utes could be without junior all-arounder Kyndal Robarts, who came down with a strep infection Tuesday and is on antibiotics. She made the trip and felt better Thursday, but Marsden won't know until tonight how much she can do.

Even though Michigan is ranked 16th, it is dangerous, especially in Crisler Arena.

"The scores tend to be tight there — which is fine — but probably why they're not ranked higher than they are," Marsden said. "They compete well there; they're a good team."

The Utes will have a good-sized cheering section, as this is the closest meet to their hometowns for four of them — seniors Jamie Deetscreek (Hatboro, Pa.) and Beth Rizzo (Hoffman Estates, Ill.), junior Jacq Johnson (West Chester, Ohio) and sophomore Stephanie McAllister (Indianapolis).

Rizzo expects 16-20 family members to attend, McAllister 10-12, Deetscreek eight and Johnson six.

"I'm so excited," said Rizzo.

It's the last time much of her family will see her perform, and her boyfriend's family will be there, too. He's from Michigan.

Rizzo performed floor exercise for the first time in 131/2 months in last Friday's home win over Utah State and scored a 9.80. She badly sprained an ankle in the 2009 season-opener and missed the whole season, having surgery.

It was so bad it scared her to get back into it, even though she was a first-team All-American. Rizzo also competes in the vault.

Deetscreek is pumped.

"I love competing when my family is there," she said. She's still trying to hone the changes made in her floor routine and said it may take another couple of weeks, but she's one of Utah's top all-arounders.

Johnson has competed three bar routines this season after a preseason appendectomy. Last week's was her first-ever routine to count in the Huntsman Center, and she came up with a 9.80. She'll try to block out thoughts of her family watching tonight.

"It's a little more exciting, but I try not to think about it too much. Just try to keep my routines the same as in practice," she said.

McAllister has gone all-around the last three meets, and, like Johnson, she'll try to not make any changes.

"I'm just supposed to do the same thing every time, but it's nice to have some support," she said.

With Rizzo, Johnson, McAllister and sophomore Cortni Beers (9.90 bars last Friday) starting to put up some nice scores, the Utes' depth is starting to pay off. It may be really needed tonight, depending on Robarts' availability.

"We've got to have everybody doing what they're capable of and good, consistent scoring throughout the lineup," Marsden said, with an eye not only on this meet but others down the road with highly ranked Florida, Oregon State and Nebraska. "They're all getting more solid; that's a positive. And they keep pushing each other; that's a positive."

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