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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Putting the pieces together

By Tony Pizza

Everyone ranging from gymnasts to coaches to the dust bunnies in the corner of the Dumke Gymnastics Center has reiterated that the U gymnastics team has come together these past few weeks.

The Utes will have a chance to prove their rejuvenated unity Friday night at the Huntsman Center, and they will get no better test of their cohesion than when they compete against the visiting No. 1 Florida Gators.

Coming into the meet, the only blemish Florida (12-0-1) has seen so far this season is a 197.25 tie the Gators drew in Athens, Ga., against the No. 2 Georgia Bulldogs on Jan. 27. Other than that, Florida has basically rolled over its opponents in a convincing fashion.

Already Florida has faced and beaten nine top-25 teams, including two wins apiece over No. 6 LSU and No. 11 Arkansas. The Gators have also netted impressive wins over No. 4 Alabama and No. 8 Nebraska. Even more impressive than Florida’s rsum is its season scoring average.

The Gators’ 197.365 average over nine meets is more than a point higher than Utah’s 196.220 average, but that doesn’t stunt the Utes’ optimism toward their chances of sending the No. 1 team home with a loss.

“To have another chance to prove ourselves, we’ll take it,” Kristina Baskett said.

The Utes have been flirting with a breakout performance over the past few meets, and with important components rejoining the lineup this week, the Red Rocks look poised to do more than just put up a good fight.

“I hope we use the last two weeks to build some confidence?so we’re excited about the chance to put a meet together and take another step forward,” coach Greg Marsden said. “If we take another step forward, we have a chance to win the meet. If we don’t, we won’t.”

It will take nothing short of a complete team effort for the Utes to upset the Gators and send them home with their first loss of the season.

“This is like a big jigsaw puzzle and we got a lot of the pieces put together,” Marsden said. “I’m hoping in the next three or four weeks we can find the rest of the pieces to that puzzle and make the picture a little clearer.”

A main piece of that puzzle will be the return of Nicolle Ford.

The U captain will likely have her role on the team downgraded slightly. The only meet Ford has competed in–but was held out of the All-Around for–was when she was fighting the flu bug in Minnesota. Utah will be without Ford in the All-Around again when they compete against the Gators.

“Technically, I could do a floor routine, but I don’t think (the coaches) will let me,” Ford said. “If I had my way, (I) would be.”

Because backward tumbling is still painful for her sore right ankle, Ford will be limited to the uneven bars and the beam — two areas the Utes are still walking on thin ice with. Ford also brings a tenacity that is hard to duplicate, and that resolve is something she can use to prevent something that has happened only once during her four-year career at the university.

“I’ve only had to experience one loss here,” Ford said. “I didn’t like it at all; the atmosphere was totally different. It just wasn’t good, but we’re capable of doing great stuff.”

Marsden will decide how to best use Annie DiLuzio before the meet starts. DiLuzio has been training for the vault, beam and floor all week, but fatigue — especially on the floor — is a big concern for her coach.

“The only thing with Annie is she’s been out a couple weeks,” Marsden said. “She was a little bit tired at the end of her floor routines.”

Other than minor bumps and bruises, no serious injuries seem to be standing in the way of the Red Rocks being putting out one of their healthiest lineups in weeks.

Now, all that remains to be seen is if the Utes are ready to put their struggles behind them and remain relaxed, yet poised, in the process.

“I think we’ve worked out (the) bugs,” Ford said. “It’s still regular season. It’s supposed to be fun, and we’re going to try to keep it that way–keep it light, at least for our sakes. We seem to do better when we’re all laughing.”

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