SALT LAKE CITY — Everyone expected that opening the 2013 gymnastics season against top-ranked UCLA would be a significant challenge for a young team.
No one expected the disastrous start that dropped the Utes from fifth to 15th in the national rankings.
"It was a little bit disappointing," said sophomore Georgia Dabritz. "We worked hard in workouts and we thought it was going to show up in our meet. Our warm-ups went great, but as soon as we started, we let the nerves get the best of us. We just lost our mental game." Of the six gymnasts competing on bars, three of them fell last week at UCLA — Mary Beth Lofgren, co-captain Hailee Hansen and Nansy Damianova.
"We knew this was a young team and that it might be a little rocky road initially," said co-head coach Megan Marsden. "I don't know that any of us dreamed that it would all happen in the first few minutes of the meet, in the first event."
Both Marsden and her gymnasts said they were physically prepared for last Saturday's meet in Los Angeles.
"It was a little surprising that it was some of our older girls," said Marsden. "At the same time, now looking back, I think some of those older girls were feeling the weight of the world. They've lost the seniors in front of them, and as of the start of the year, they're feeling the weight of trying to be leaders and didn't handle it very well." The coaches sat with the gymnasts on Monday and discussed what happened and how to put it behind them as they host No. 23 Oregon State, No. 20 Southern Utah University and No. 22 West Virginia.
Dabritz said she's confident she and her teammates can put last weekend's problems behind them.
"That's really what you have to do in gymnastics," she said. "We make mistakes and you have to let it go and move onto the next event, the next meet."
The athletes and coaches are comforted by the fact that this weekend's meet will allow them to compete in front of their own fans.
"Home for any team, in any sport, is better just because there is more familiarity," Marsden said. "But we did talk about how that's not an absolute guarantee. We shouldn't just think that the Huntsman Center will cure all."
Sophomore Tory Wilson provided Utah with one of the few bright spots from last weekend's loss to UCLA. Her 9.90 was the highest score any Ute earned in any event, and it tied for first place on vault.
Freshman Breanna Hughes was the only Ute to start her career in the loss to UCLA.
Normally, four-team meets are controlled chaos with all four teams competing on different events at the same time. But this year, only one competitor will compete at a time, which will allow fans to watch each performance. This year, the Red Rock fans set a new school record by buying nearly 6,700 season tickets.
A common bond
Both Utah and Southern Utah opened the 2013 season the same way — with a loss to No. 2 ranked UCLA. This Saturday's meet will be the second meet of the season for both the T-birds and the Utes.