After Utah's all-time record 170-meet, 23-year-old home-meet win streak was finally felled by UCLA almost two years ago, people asked Ute gymnastics coach Greg Marsden why he now opens each season against the Bruins, the most successful collegiate team over the past four years.
It's simple, says Marsden, whose Utes were the most prominent team in college gymnastics for more than 20 years and are still among the top three or four programs and drawing a bead on better than that as they open the 2005 season Friday night in the Huntsman Center at 7 against the No. 1-ranked, two-time defending NCAA-champion Bruins.
"I think it's a great way to start. You may or may not win, but it's a fun way to start, as far as I'm concerned, and we're scheduled to do it for at least two more years," Marsden says.
"There's a lot of talent out on that floor between the two teams, and it will be a great meet for our fans. They won't see more talent on the floor than Friday, and it's a great measuring stick to see where we are," said Marsden, whose Utes are ranked fifth in the preseason poll. Besides, "You don't have to get the kids up for it."
Ute senior co-captain Annabeth Eberle has been ready for some time. "As for me, it's revenge, since the last time they came here," she said. "I know we went there and beat them (last season), but they're back here now and I want it back, actually."
"It's developed into a fun rivalry," adds Marsden, whose team owns 10 national championships, nine in the NCAA and one in the old AIAW. UCLA has five national titles, all recently. Georgia and Alabama are the only other teams to own NCAA titles.
Marsden spoke with UCLA coach Valorie Kondos Field this week, and she and her team with three former Olympians and eight World Championship team members is focused on avenging its 2004 loss at Pauley Pavilion to the Utes.
"Val says, 'We look at you as our antithesis we came up and broke your record a couple years ago, and you came back here and got a little payback last year. We're coming there ready. We haven't forgotten last year,' " said Marsden, delighted there's so much at stake so soon for each team.
"People enjoyed the Olympics this summer. These are kids that have competed at that level," he adds.
Especially, for Utah, freshman Ashley Postell, a two-time member of the U.S. World Championships team and the 2002 world balance beam champion. "It doesn't get much bigger than that," Marsden said. "But Katie Kivisto is also very talented former elite gymnast, national team member. She will do a great job for us, as will Jessica Duke, from here in Salt Lake, also a former national team member and elite gymnast."Eberle, Postell and three-time All-American sophomore Nicolle Ford are likely Utah's all-arounders for Friday.
Utes' 2005 schedule
Fri, Jan. 7 UCLA Salt Lake City 7 p.m.
Fri, Jan. 14 Utah State at Logan 7 p.m.
Fri, Jan. 21 Oregon State at Corvallis, OR 8 p.m.
Fri, Jan. 28 Michigan Salt Lake City 5 p.m.
Sat, Feb. 5 Minnesota at Minneapolis, MN 6 p.m.
Fri, Feb. 11 Brigham Young Salt Lake City 7 p.m.
Sun, Feb. 20 Nebraska at Lincoln, NE 1 p.m.
Fri, Feb. 25 Georgia at Athens, GA 7 p.m.
Fri, Mar. 3-4 California, Florida, Stanford Salt Lake City 7 p.m.
Fri, Mar. 11 Washington Salt Lake City 8 p.m.
Fri, Mar. 18 Arizona State Salt Lake City 7 p.m.
Sat, Mar. 26 BYU at Provo 7 p.m.
Sat, Apr. 9 NCAA Regional Salt Lake City 6 p.m.
Thu, Apr. 21-23 NCAA Championships Auburn, AL TBAAll times Mountain