The Pac-12 Champion, No. 3 Utah gymnastics team (18-1) has earned the top seed in the NCAA Berkeley Regional, Saturday, Apr. 4 in Berkeley, Calif. The meet starts at 6 p.m. PDT (7 p.m. MDT) in Haas Pavilion. The teams in the Berkeley Regional by national rank and subsequent seed are No. 3 Utah, No. 10 Georgia, No. 15 Boise State, No. 20 California, Utah State and BYU. Utah must finish in the top two to advance to a record 40th-straight national championship. Cal will provide a free live video stream and live scores on calbears.com. For live Utah updates, follow twitter.com/utahathletics.
While California may be the host at Haas Pavilion, the venue has been kind to Utah as well. The Red Rocks won their first Pac-12 Championship (in 2014) in Haas and also took first place the previous time they competed at an NCAA Regional hosted by the Bears back in 2007. After winning the 2007 Regional in Haas Pavilion, Utah went on to finish second at the NCAA Championships, falling to Georgia.
Utah is led by co-head coaches Greg and Megan Marsden, who have split the 2014 and 2015 Pac-12 Coach of the Year awards. They have led Utah to back-to-back Pac-12 Championships in 2014 and 2015. Greg is in his 40th season as Utah's head coach and is the NCAA career leader in wins (1,036-206-7). He has been the only coach for the gymnastics program's entire existence. Megan is in her sixth year as co-head coach (and 31st year on staff) and has a career record of 120-45-1.
The Red Rocks have faced four of the teams in the Berkeley Regional this season and are 3-1 against them. Utah defeated BYU on Jan. 9, Boise State on Jan. 16, and California on Mar. 21 at the Pac-12 Championship. Utah came up short at Georgia on Mar. 14.
"Berkeley was one of the best places for us to go location-wise. It's closest. It will be interesting to go against Georgia and show them what we are capable of. We had a couple of mistakes the night Georgia beat us. It was uncharacteristic, but we are ready for redemption," said senior All-American Becky Tutka.
Utah's stiffest competition will likely come from the Georgia Gymdogs, the only team to defeat Utah this season. Georgia finished fifth at the SEC Championship with a 196.000. UGA is tied for 14th on vault, eight on bars, 11th on beam and 12th on floor. Individually, Brittany Rogers is the highest ranked Gymdog on any event, coming in at No. 11 on bars. Mary Beth Box, who was the SEC runner-up on beam, is tied for 19th on that event. Chelsea Davis is tied for 20th on bars, and Brandie Jay is tied for 21st on vault. Five Georgia gymnasts, second most of any team in the conference, earned 2015 SEC honors. Box, Gigi Marino, Rachel Schick, and Rogers were named to the All-SEC Team, while Natalie Vaculik and Marino were named to the All-Freshman Team. Georgia's regional rotation is bye, bars, beam, bye, floor, vault.
For the third-straight year, Utah has drawn the uneven bars as its first event at regionals. In 2013 and 2014, Utah sat out with a bye before joining the action, but their actual event order was identical. The Red Rocks will rotate as follows: bars, beam, bye, floor, vault, bye. Utah has won 28 regional titles (including 25 of 33 NCAA) and finished second the other 11 years. Last year, the Red Rocks won the Fayetteville Regional. Utah has two NCAA regional champs on its squad: Georgia Dabritz (bars 2012, 2013; vault 2013) and Tory Wilson (vault 2013), although Wilson will be unable to compete due to season-ending injuries suffered at the Pac-12 Championships on Mar. 21.
Utah will enter NCAA postseason play without senior co-captain Wilson, the highest-ranked all-arounder, a seven-time All-American (including two regular season All-America awards this year) and the 2014 Pac-12 Gymnast of the Year. At the 2015 Pac-12 Championships on Mar. 21, Wilson won the vault with a 10.0 and scored a 9.90 on bars and 9.875 on beam before suffering career-ending injuries during the first pass of her floor routine. Wilson ruptured her right Achilles tendon on take-off for a double layout, and suffered a Lisfranc fracture to her left foot on her landing. She finishes her season ranked No. 9 in the nation in the all-around (39.485 RQS) and No. 8 on vault (9.940 RQS). Wilson is a three-time first-team All-Pac-12 selection and the 2014 Pac-12 all-around champion. Utah's two-time co-MVP was the 2013 NCAA North Central Region Gymnast of the Year and the 2013 regional vault champion. She finished her career with three perfect 10.0s on vault.
"It's definitely hard [to replace Wilson]. Tory contributed on every event for so long, and she was capable of putting up huge scores. It's going to be hard to fill that spot, but we have a ton of girls that are ready to step up and be in that line up and are capable of putting up big scores like she was," said Dabritz.
Competition for the positions vacated by the injured Wilson could result in a game-day decision on some events. Since Wilson competed in every event, she has huge shoes that need to be filled. Possibilities on vault include Tiffani Lewis and Baely Rowe; on bars, Lewis, Kari Lee and Samantha Partyka; on beam, Kailah Delaney and Kassandra Lopez; and on floor, Lewis and Breanna Hughes. Megan Marsden touched on this in our interview with her as well. Red Rock winners this season: Dabritz (26), Wilson (10), Lee (5), Rowe (4), Delaney (3), Corrie Lothrop (3), Maddy Stover (1), Tutka (1). The Utes have completed 97% (256-264) of their routines without a fall. Gymnasts who have hit every routine are Delaney (14-14), Lewis (12-12), Lopez (11-11), Stover (11-11), Hughes (10-10), Tutka (8-8), and Partyka (6-6).
If Utah finishes in the top two at the NCAA Berkeley Regionals, they will head to the NCAA Championships in Fort Worth, Texas, which begin April 17.