The No. 4 Utah gymnastics team (1-0) will host their first home meet tonight at 7 p.m. in the Jon M. Huntsman Center against No. 24 Southern Utah (0-1), Boise State (0-0), and UC Davis (4-1). Boise State was ranked No. 19 in the preseason poll as well. None of Utah's opponents finished last season ranked, and all three failed to make the NCAA regionals.
The Red Rocks frequently set records for attendance. Last season, the Utah gymnastics led all NCAA women's sports in average attendance with 14,376. The season ticket count was at a school-record 7,012 as of Monday morning (the old mark was 7,000 set last year). The electric home atmosphere of the packed Huntsman Center rubs off the gymnasts.
"Our gymnasts love competing in front of our home crowd, because there is not a better college gymnastics atmosphere anywhere in the country," said Co-Head Coach Greg Marsden. "There's an added element of excitement when you have 15,000 fans cheering you on. Our freshmen have never experienced anything like it, so I'm sure there will be some jitters, but one of the biggest reasons they came to Utah is our fans."
Despite falling at No. 20 Arizona State, Southern Utah posted a strong enough score (193.925) to move into the top 25. They are tied at No. 24 with Eastern Michigan. The Flippin' Birds are 0-20 against the Red Rocks. They are led by head coach Scott Bauman, who is in his 24th year.
Boise State will open their season at the meet. Boise State is 29-35 in season opening meets. They have competed against Utah 13 times and have never beaten Utah. The Broncos only feature two seniors, but Ciera Perkins was a second team All-American on floor exercise last season. Boise State is led by eighth year head coaches Tina Bird and Neil Resnick (132-46).
UC Davis competed in the NorCal Classic against No. 10 California, No. 13 Stanford, San Jose State, and Sacramento State. UC Davis beat Stanford, San Jose State, and Sacramento State but fell to Cal. They won on the road at Seattle Pacific. The Aggies are led by ninth year head coach John Lavallee. UC Davis will compete at the Huntsman Center for the first time in program history.
Utah started out strong in the first meet at BYU, posting their highest opening meet score since 2004 (196.900). The 39.45 all-around score Tory Wilson posted in Provo is the third best in the nation. The meet was not perfect though. Some uncharacteristic mistakes were made in the meet.
"While we had a very good first meet, we saw some mistakes in routines that we have not been seeing in the gym. We want to clean those up this meet," said Marsden.
For her part, however, Wilson was honored as the Pac-12 Gymnast of the Week.
Utes freshman Tiffani Lewis, who debuted on vault in the season opener, is projected to lead off on floor this week after scoring a 9.85 in exhibition at BYU. Freshman Samantha Partyka will replace Corrie Lothrop in the vault lineup this week. Partyka scored a 9.825 in exhibition last week at BYU. Senior All-American Becky Tutka will miss her second meet with a wrist injury. Tutka hopes to return for the Pac-12 opener against UCLA on Jan. 23.
For fans coming to the meet want to be sure to attend early. The 2014 Pac-12 Gymnastics Championship Red Rocks will be honored in a pre-meet ceremony. Additionally, a replica Pac-12 Championship trophy will be given to the first 1,000 fans in attendance. For children, the Kid Zone opens at 5:30 p.m. with a balloon artist, face painting, poster making station and more.
Live score updates and video will be available on UtahUtes.com. There is no TV coverage of the meet.