To coach Greg Marsden, the Utah gymnastics team took a step forward Friday night in Gainesville, Fla., even as it lost a meet for the first time this season.
"I've never worried too much about that," Marsden said about the first loss. "Gymnastics is about peaking at the right time (for the postseason), and at the same time, this was a positive for us."
Compared to last week's home victory over Oregon State, a road performance without a fall and with no score lower than a 9.725 that didn't count toward the total was an improvement, and that's what Marsden's looking for the most, despite a 197.70-196.875 setback for the second-ranked, 10-1 Utes to third-ranked, 8-2 Florida in the O'Connell Center.
"It was a step back in the right direction," said Marsden, whose team has failed to do that only once in 2008 last week, even though that was an easy win over then-No. 7 Oregon State. Utah had obvious mistakes, he said, but they weren't as dramatic as last week's.
The Utes opened Friday's meet with three scores under 9.80 on bars, including 9.775 by their top athlete, Ashley Postell, who hit the bar but did a nice job recovering, Marsden said. The Utes had slight problems on handstands or steps on landings things that can be cleaned up in the future. Utah's 49.05 on bars had it well behind from the start as the Gators put up 49.275 on their first event, vault.
The Utes didn't let the bars score slow them. They roared back with their best score of the night, 49.40 on vault, but that was the only event they captured.
The Gators were simply on. Marsden said he talked with Florida coach Rhonda Faehn afterward, and she didn't think her team could have been better, even though it has scored 197.925. The Gators just had a week off after losing 197.225-197.125 at Alabama Feb. 29, and they obviously did better coming off a layoff than Utah did last week in its 196.30-195.15 win over the Beavers in the Huntsman Center.
Florida had the night's top four all-arounders, led by Amanda Castillo's 39.625 with Melanie Sinclair adding 39.575, Corey Hartung 39.50 and Ashley Reed 39.45. Utah's Postell was next at 39.425. Teammates Daria Bijak had 39.275 and Kristina Baskett 39.25, thanks to a step out of bounds on floor.
Baskett had jammed an ankle earlier in the week, so she and Marsden decided to water down her floor routine to save on it, and when she got to the double pike at the end, she had too much energy and power and went out of bounds, as she's done before with the lesser skill.
At the same time, Postell threw her entire floor routine for the first time, opening with the double Arabian, using a 2 1/2 punch front in the middle and closing with the triple twist. She scored 9.9.
Postell also had what Marsden called "a great vault (9.95)" and scored 9.8 on beam with a wobble. "She's just putting a lot of pressure on herself," Marsden said of his outstanding senior, who had her first two falls of the season last week. "She tends to have one of these (periods of pressing) every year."Utah will return home for a couple of practices and then head to No. 4 Michigan, which just beat No. 1 Georgia last week, a week from today to complete its toughest stretch of the regular season. It finishes the regular season with BYU in the Huntsman Center March 28.