ATHENS, Ga. — The No. 7-ranked Utah gymnasts put on their best road show of the year in one of the most hostile arenas in the country, staying with striking distance of No. 8 Georgia into the last rotation before falling 197.650-196.975 on Saturday.
The loss, before a sellout crowd of 9,941 in Stegeman Coliseum, was Utah's first setback since its season-opener at UCLA. The Utes dropped to 9-2-1 overall, while Georgia improved to 7-6-1.
One streak that was not broken was Tory Wilson's run on the vault. Wilson, undefeated on her specialty this season, extended her unbeaten streak to nine meets by tying for first with a score of 9.95. The last time a Ute won nine straight vault competitions was Ashley Postell in 2008. Mary Beth Lofgren earned her second straight beam win and her third this season by tying her season-high with a 9.90. Georgia Dabritz (39.35) and Wilson (39.225) finished second and third, respectively, in the all-around competition.
Utah coach Greg Marsden was baffled at deductions his team made on floor, one of its best events along with vault.
"What surprised me is the tenths we gave away on floor," said Marsden. "We did well on the events we've been struggling on (bars and beam), and I thought we took a step forward there, but on floor we gave up a lot of tenths with missed landings and things like that. We have to clean that up."
Unlike meets at UCLA (three falls on bars) and Washington (a fall and a half-point deduction on another routine), all six Utes stepped up and hit their bar routines on the first rotation, setting the tone for a 24-of-24 effort on the evening. Nansy Damianova and Dabritz led Utah on bars, each scoring a 9.90 to tie for second place. Despite the best bar road score of the year, the Utes were down 49.550-49.225 after one rotation.
Moving to round two, Wilson continued to show why she is the nation's top-ranked vaulter, tying for first with a 9.95. Dabritz, ranked eighth in the nation on vault, scored a 9.90 and Utah finished with a 49.350. At the midway point, the Utes trailed Georgia 98.900-98.575.
The two rivals played to a standstill on the third rotation, with Utah scoring 49.225 on floor and Georgia the same score on beam. Becky Tutka's 9.90 led the Utes. Heading into the final rotation, the Utes had inched to within 148.125-147.800 of Georgia.
While Utah didn't keep pace with Georgia's 49.525 on the floor, the Utes did post their second-best beam score of the season — a 49.175. A decision to move Dabritz, who has been inconsistent on the event, to the end of the lineup paid off. Lofgren scored a 9.90 from the fifth, rather than the sixth, position, and Dabritz scored a 9.775 as the anchor.
"We felt like we needed to do something different," Marsden said. "We knew we had five dependable gymnasts in front of her and it seemed to work. That is something we might look at sticking with."
Utah closes its regular season next Saturday against No. 1-ranked Florida. The meet, Utah's home finale, will be televised nationally on the Pac-12 Networks and will start right at 6 p.m., so fans are encouraged to be in their seats by 5:40 to see alumnae recognized and team introductions.