SALT LAKE CITY — Losing junior Corrie Lothrop for the season is tragic for both the reigning Pac-12 all-around champion and the team that elected her a captain.
And as such, it would be easy to see her absence as the kind of massive void that changes the course of a season for a team.
That is, however, exactly the kind of view co-head coach Greg Marsden hopes to avoid.
"There is just no way to sugar-coat it," he said. "It's a big loss. But it's the hand we're dealt, and we'll accept it and move on."
Lothrop had surgery to repair her Achilles tendon on Monday, while her teammates headed back to the gym to prepare for this Saturday's meet against No. 23 California at 7 p.m. at the Huntsman Center.
Marsden said what is a devastating blow to Lothrop could turn out to be an opportunity for the teammates who've come to trust and rely on her.
"I think most of (the gymnasts) are just trying to move forward and fill in as best we can," Marsden said. "It's going to be an opportunity for some people." First and foremost, sophomore Tory Wilson will make her first start as an all-around competitor. She's ranked No. 1 in the country on vault, as she's won or tied every competition this season. The only event she hadn't competed was bars, and Marsden said she looks ready to unveil the routine.
"She completed exhibition last week, and hit her routine," he said. "She's worked very hard this year and she wants it very badly. She's one of the ones who looks at this as her opportunity be out there more and contribute more."
Wilson is a powerful gymnast who doesn't mind the pressure that comes from competing all four events.
"I think she really relishes that role, that opportunity," Marsden said.
And Lothrop will still be lending her emotional support to the team, even as she struggles through rehabilitation. She was at practice Tuesday receiving treatment and talking to her teammates. Her transition from leading by example to leading from the sidelines began with a post to Facebook in which she thanked her teammates, coaches and fans for their support.
"The road to recovery begins now," Lothrop wrote earlier this week. "I honestly didn't know I was loved this much until now. I still believe everything happens for a reason I can't wait to be back in the gym with the team, my second family. Let's have a great year. Go Utes!"
Her coach said he anticipates Lothrop will endure "a rollercoaster" as she sets into the "grind of rehab."
"But I think she's trying to stay positive and be encouraging to the team," he said.
And her teammates have responded by working harder to make sure a difficult situation doesn't become devastating.
"Practice has been good," Marsden said. "Everybody has been doing this a long time. I think most of them have been through this before. Everybody just accepts it; it's athletics, and things happen. Injuries are a part of it."
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No. 7 Utah vs. No. 23 California @ 7 p.m., Huntsman Center
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