On Thursday, Greg Marsden told his Ute gymnasts to remember what got them so involved in the sport in the first place just the enjoyment of being able to do all those unbelievable skills.
He told his team to do its routines Friday night, and from now on, for the fun of it and not to impress judges or coaches or parents or crowds.
He probably didn't need to emphasize that so much to this team, which has a far different demeanor that the 2007 club that built mistake upon mistake and agonized over every one of them at least until it got things right in the postseason.
This 2008 team, having seen each other working hard together in the summer and in preseason training, has a much higher trust factor in each of its members, and that is showing.
The third-ranked Utes went to 2-0 Friday night in the Huntsman Center, defeating an injured 2-1 Nebraska team that made mistakes on its first event and didn't recover 196.425-194.575 before a crowd of 12,906.
Both teams wore the same donated leotards, black with a pink ribbon across the chest, for Breast Cancer Awareness Night. The only difference was the team name written on the right hips of Utah's outfits, while Nebraska's didn't have a name on them.
Utah faces its first road test of the season next Friday at Arizona State.
"Our job is to be as good on the road as at home," said Marsden, noting that both the NCAA regional and national meets will be somewhere else. Last year, Utah hosted the championships.
But the feeling for now is that Utah can pass the road test because it is "more of a team," according to Ashley Postell. "I think it helps when you know your teammates really well. It helps to know what we can do." she added after scoring 39.325 in the all-around despite a step out of bounds on floor.
Postell tied for the meet's all-around title with Nebraska senior Emily Parsons (39.325), who also stepped out on floor. Desire Sniatynski of Nebraska was third at 39.25.
The Huskers are missing 2004 Olympian Kylie Stone, who has so far sat out three meets. Coach Dan Kendig said he will find out Monday whether she'll be able to return or be out for the season.
He said Nebraska, also missing other injured gymnasts, was prepared and excited to compete at Utah but came out flat on bars. He was impressed that Parsons, who broke a handgrip in warmups on bars, her least-favorite event, overcame that to score 9.775. Parsons had the meet's top event score with a booming 9.95 vault.
Postell admits even she is "trying to have more fun" after bearing what Marsden called "the weight of the world" much of last season.
"She just seems to have mentally put it all together and is not pressing. She's comfortable with herself," Marsden said.
"I don't stress out," Postell said, laughing at her old self. "I haven't gotten pouty."
Neither has anyone else.
"What I like," said Marsden, "is that people are competing confidently and having fun and enjoying themselves."
And it's a lot of different people, he noted. He used 11 gymnasts in the meet, and the other two on the team did exhibition routines.
Utah's score was up .125 point from last Friday's 196-3-196.2 win over then-No. 1 Georgia in the Huntsman, though the Utes managed only one 9.90 score the whole night Postell's beam.
However, Utah's leadoff performer on each event totaled 9.75 or better, and Marsden said the judges on bars were fair but more willing to take deductions than the judges last week.
Daria Bijak led off vault with 9.825, Jamie Deetscreek had the 9.75 on bars and added 9.825 on beam, and Katie Kivisto started off floor with 9.80, meaning Utah has good depth everywhere.
"Last week was a fluke," Deetscreek said of the way her arms had buckled on bars, though she stayed on. "I have never done that before." She said she worked hard on her mental outlook through the week and improved, boosting her confidence.
"It was a big step for her," Marsden said.
And the meet was another step in the right direction for the Utes. "We're building positive experiences and building confidence, which I'm not sure we did last year," Marsden added.Utah rebounded in the 2007 postseason to win the West Region and finish second in the NCAA Championships on its home floor.
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