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SALT LAKE CITY — The fourth-ranked Utah gymnastics team will host its first Pac-12 meet of the season against eighth-ranked UCLA Friday, Jan. 23, at 6 p.m.
“The girls probably take this one as a little more important,” said co-head coach Megan Marsden.
The Utes (4-0, 0-0 Pac-12) and Bruins (2-0, 2-0 Pac-12) have a steady history with each other. They met a record five times last season, Utah winning four of the matches. Three of the meetings occurred in the postseason where the Red Rocks swept the Bruins in the Pac-12 championship, NCAA regional and NCAA championship competitions.
“Their team is excellent,” said Marsden when asked about her thoughts on UCLA. “They have some girls back who were injured and athletes that have some really interesting, unique routines.”
Both teams are among the most successful programs in the nation. They’ve combined to win two of three Pac-12 championships, UCLA in 2012 and Utah in 2014. This meet is the beginning of Utah defending its Pac-12 championship title.
“Each time we’re meeting a Pac-12 foe, we want to make sure we are as good as we can be against them. We certainly want to be first, second, third or fourth to go into the final session that competes for the championship,” said Marsden.
Each time we're meeting a Pac-12 foe, we want to make sure we are as good as we can be against them. We certainly want to be first, second, third or fourth to go into the final session that competes for the championship.
In order to do their best this week, scoring will be crucial for the Red Rocks. The two teams almost always have a close competition. Last season in Ann Arbor the Red Rocks lost by 0.125 against UCLA. In nationals, the Utes won by just 0.025.
Utah’s quad meet score last week (196.675) was lower than its first meet’s victory score of 196.900 at BYU. Although the team won, it was a little disappointed about the low score.
“We can’t do much about scoring, so whatever judges show up and how they score the meet is up to them. They were really finding some little things and went ahead and took the deductions,” Marsden said.
Marsden added that the morning after the meet the gymnasts watched video of their routines to see where they can make improvements. With different judges every meet, the scoring can vary even if the gymnasts have improved a routine.
“In a video we can prove to them that they did fix some things that we felt would help them score higher, but with that set of judges it didn’t pan out,” said Marsden.
Utah leads UCLA 47-25-1 and is 23-2 against the Bruins in the Huntsman Center. The UCLA wins were significant. One snapped a 24-year home win streak for the Utes, the longest home win streak in any NCAA sport history. The other knocked the Utes out for the 2012 Pac-12 championship title by five-hundredths of a point (197.425-197.375).
Friday marks the annual Blackout meet and the only autograph night of the season. There is no live stream of the event, but Pac-12 Networks will televise it.
“Our fans are going to love this competition. It should be packed with great gymnastics and ultimately be a close competition.”