SALT LAKE CITY — Utah and Utah State square off in gymnastics tonight at 7 p.m. in the Huntsman Center. The meet marks the season opener for the Aggies while it is the home opener for the fifth-ranked Utes. The Utes have sold 6,276 season tickets and are expecting a large crowd with their Daddy-Daughter Night promotion. The meet will also be aired on tape delay at 11 a.m. on ABC-4 on Sunday.
"We are really excited to go to the Huntsman Center," said Utah State coach Jeff Richards. "I just wish we were healthier."
The two teams have a combined 23 underclassmen on their rosters, but the difference early in the season is Utah's health. Utah State lost Rachel Vaske, who qualified in the all-around for NCAA Regionals in 2011, to a broken hand, likely for the season. Vaske competed with the broken hand most of last season.
Paige Jones is expected to lead the way for the Aggies, but will sit out tonight's meet for disciplinary reasons. Amelia Montoya and Rebecca Holliday have since joined the all-around mix, but Holliday is also injured after a fall in practice.
"We had several gymnasts thinking they wouldn't compete and have had to step it up in the last few weeks," said Richards. "We are already a little thin and can't afford to go too big early so we'll play it safer this week."
The Aggies were picked to tie for third in the WAC, with newcomer Denver the favorite and current league champion Southern Utah second.
"I really think Boise State was as tough as Denver so we lost one of them and gained the other. Next year Boise State is back so the competition level within the conference is exciting," said Richards.
The Utes, meanwhile, are looking to build on their final three events in a close loss to No. 1 UCLA last weekend. After a fall and break on bars put them behind one point to the Bruins, the Utes clawed back to post the fourth-best score in the country of the opening weekend at 196.025.
"If you exclude the first event where we obviously showed some first meet jitters, and people were a little tight, we did really well," said Utah co-head coach Megan Marsden. "Tory Wilson stepped in to lead off the next rotation of vault after Greg (Marsden) made a slight adjustment, and did an incredible vault that loosened the group. After that we hit one routine after another."
Senior Stephanie McAllister led the way for Utah, finishing second in the all-around at 39.325 while also earning a win on the beam. Teammate Corrie Lorthrop was third in the all-around at 39.275.
"It's always fun to be at home," said McAllister. "The energy is amazing from our crowd."
The crowd will also see six hometown gymnasts, with each team having three apiece. Utah State has Haley Hogan, Ashley Follett and Christina Nye, who are all expected to compete tonight. Utah boasts Mary Beth Lofgren, Fumina Kobayashi and Hailee Hansen.
Utah State at Utah, 7 p.m.