LOS ANGELES — A disastrous start doomed the No. 5 Ute gymnasts at No. 2 UCLA in Pauley Pavilion, where Utah opened its season with a 197.425-195.300 loss. The Utes dug themselves an insurmountable hole by falling three times on their first event, the uneven bars. Though they bounced back with a good vault set, and wouldn't count a fall the rest of the way, the damage was done.
"People did things I've never seen before," said Marsden of the fall-filled bar start. "The only explanation I can give is we let the nerves to get us and then let it snowball. We had a lot of people (working events) they've never done before, but I was proud that after our meltdown on bars, they came back and did a reasonably good job."
Mary Beth Lofgren, who was scheduled to be the alternate on bars before all-arounder Kassandra Lopez injured her calf in the final practice before the team left for L.A., fell as Utah's first competitor of the night. Freshman Breanna Hughes, performing her first college routine, seemed unfazed by the veteran's struggles, scoring a 9.85. But juniors Nansy Damianova and Hailee Hansen followed Hughes' routine with back-to-back falls.
The Utes rebounded with their best event of the night by scoring a 49.250 on vault and sophomore Tory Wilson earned the first win of her young career, scoring a 9.90 to tie for first.
The Utes did turn in a decent 49.100 on the floor, highlighted by Damianova and Becky Tutka's 9.85 scores.
"We had a lot of difficulty in our floor exercise routines and didn't water down at all," said Marsden. We just have to grow into our routines a little bit."
Beam got off to a shaky start when Wilson, in the first beam routine of her career. Again, the freshman Hughes proved steady, scoring a 9.825. Dabritz turned in a marvelous 9.875 routine to secure a career-high all-around score.
Dabritz' 39.400 led Utah's all-arounders and earned her second place behind UCLA's Vanessa Zamarripa (39.675). Lothrop finished third in the all-around with a 39.300.
The Utes will look to regroup next Saturday when they meet Oregon State, West Virginia and Southern Utah in their home opener.