Both teams were pretty far from where they ended last season on the same floor, one and two in the nation in the 2007 NCAA Women's Gymnastics Championships at the University of Utah's Huntsman Center.
It was, after all, the first meet of the season, and there were little gremlins around.
Georgia, the three-time defending NCAA champion, was getting the better of the Utes, who have been runners-up to the Gym Dogs at the last two national championships, until the final event, when Utah had a reasonably good floor exercise while Georgia, which usually wins meets with its balance beam sets, faltered twice.
Both Tiffany Tolnay and Olympian Courtney Kupets, the two-time defending NCAA all-around champion, had falls from beam to open the door for the Utes. It was only Kupets' third collegiate career fall, the other two last year against Arkansas and UCLA, she said.
Both Kupets and Tolnay, along with four teammates, had surgeries last summer, and several didn't begin training again until October and even November. "I let the nerves get to me," Kupets said.
Utah senior Ashley Postell took the invitation from the Gym Dogs, and her 9.9 on floor was enough to break Utah's string of losing eight straight meets to Georgia as Utah totaled 196.30 to Georgia's 196.20, Friday night at the Huntsman Center in front of 13,339 fans.
Postell won the all-around at 39.525, with teammate Kristina Baskett second at 49.10 despite going out of bounds and scoring 9.6 on floor as Utah's fifth competitor, leaving the meet up to Postell, who had no idea of team or individual scoring races.
"It's just the first meet," Postell said, not taking too much credit for the team win or for beating Kupets, who's beaten her the last two years in the NCAA all-around championships. Postell said few of the gymnasts were doing all the skills they hope to have in their routines later in the year, though she said, "It was nice" to win.
Baskett said her meet went well except for having too much power on floor and bounding out of bounds on her first pass. "Shot out of a cannon," she called it, emphasizing how much extra she had in front of her coach and adding, "I really want to upgrade."
"It was a good, solid start," said Utah coach Greg Marsden. "And I think it will help us going to the gym (for practice) feeling good about what we did but excited about taking the next step.
"We know we're a much better team than that," he said.
It didn't matter too much to the Utes that both clubs made early season mistakes. It was just nice to win, and it always feels good to get a monkey like that losing streak to the Gym Dogs off one's back, Marsden said.
"It's always sweet to win. They're ranked No. 1, we're ranked No. 3, they've had our number for several years now, they're three-time defending champions. How could you not want to win that meet?
"Neither team was at their best, it's the first meet of the season. There were a lot of nerves tonight. But in the final analysis, we won the meet, and that's exciting," Marsden said.
"It feels really good to win a meet" Baskett said. "No one will be upset. We had a lot of mistakes, but it's OK because we can just go up from there and work on it.
"But it's nice to have that win right off the bat. I think the crowd liked it a little bit."
Georgia opened with a 49.325 score on bars to Utah's 49.10 on its first event, vault. After two events, the Gym Dogs were ahead 98.35-98.20.
Marsden was aware of that and made what he called a gut decision to insert freshman Kyndal Robarts into the leadoff spots in the beam and floor lineups. She had scored 9.8 in vault, and Marsden said she has a little more difficulty than the people she replaced, who both had miscues on uneven bars that he said weren't a factor in their being replaced.
Marsden said he thought Robarts' extra difficulty might give Utah a little more oomph as it chased the Gym Dogs. Robarts scored 9.725 on beam and 9.625 on floor, keeping herself inbounds by a toe on her final pass, a 0.1 of a point saved that would come in handy in the end.
Robarts seemed fairly unfazed by suddenly having to lead off two events in her first-ever college meet, starting with the unnerving beam. She said Marsden had told everyone to be ready in case changes had to be made, so she was. "I was glad I could help," she said.
Georgia's Katie Heenan and Kupets tied for the vault title at 9.875s, Kupets beat Baskett 9.95-9.9 for bars, and Postell took both beam and floor with 9.9s, tying Georgia's Courtney McCool on floor.Georgia is off to Stanford for a meet Sunday, and Utah awaits No. 7 Nebraska in the Huntsman Center next Friday at 7 p.m.
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