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Despite loss, U. showing signs of improving

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Things really aren't as bad as they seemed for the University of Utah's gymnastics team after Friday night's loss at Georgia, despite the 196.85-195.475 score.

There were actually some signs that things are improving, like balance beam, said coach Greg Marsden, who is starting to integrate his large freshman class into more responsibility.

"I just have a feeling that it's beginning to get better," Marsden said at Monday's practice, noting freshmen are doing a number of routines now and others are available. "It's just naive to think that when half your team is freshmen that that's not going to affect your consistency, even in lineups. Some events our lineups change almost weekly because we're still trying to figure out what's going to give us the best chance."

Another issue is togetherness, said junior Nina Kim, who with captain Nicolle Ford finds that chemistry to be something the Utes need to build.

"I think we're uniting as a team more now, putting team effort in," said Kim. "More after this Georgia meet, but even before, because we're realizing we can't do it just as upperclassmen or just as freshmen. We need to be together."

Ford added, "We're having a hard time with the team aspect of some things. People kind of do their own thing and get their own thing done in the gym, but we haven't expressed feelings to each other to get things out there. It's gotten better, at least last week it was."

But Ford planned to call a team meeting, just to help resolve any personal issues. She's done it a couple of times already this season.

"I think it's time to do it (again)," said Kim. "Each of us individually needs to have more confidence in ourselves and in our team that we can do it, (that) we're just as good. I think that's what we're lacking most," Kim said.

DECISION: Before the Utes left for Georgia, Marsden had a decision to make. "I told the girls I don't think we're at a place where we can match up with Georgia yet, so do we want to go there and worry about winning — not that we don't want to win — or do we want to continue with our plan?"

The plan — magnified by six freshmen who are just learning — is to start a bit slow and upgrade through the season. The Utes are at the halfway point.

"If we want to have a chance at the end, we've got to do the stuff that we're putting in right now. We've got to get it in now so we have time to get comfortable with it and execute it better. What we didn't do the other night, we just didn't execute," Marsden said

Especially on floor exercise, where much of the team was upgrading. The Utes missed in several spots, but now they've broken the ice.

"We're human beings," said Kim. "We're going to make mistakes. This year hasn't been a perfect season, but I'd be worried if we were having a perfect season — how we'd end up and the end."

Junior Ashley Postell noted her difficulty on floor, almost sitting down on one tumbling pass, but it doesn't worry her. "Things were fine except floor, which is fine with me because I don't have any problem with that," she said.

Freshman Annie DiLuzio also is OK with her floor miss, as she over-rotated her 2 1/2 punch front and "bounced right out of bounds." She got her double Arabian mount in for the first time, and the last pass was just a quirk.

Same with Ford, who missed her double layout but hit it in the two meets previous. Just fluky errors, she said of herself and her teammates.

KIM POSSIBLE: Kim is struggling with her own confidence at times and was frustrated to tears Friday night over a couple of big wobbles she had on beam. "It was me being hard on myself. I did fairly well, but just the wobbles and stuff I didn't like. You're your hardest critic," she explained. It was her first time competing at noisy Georgia, as it was for most of her teammates.

"Some of our more experienced people struggled," Marsden said. "Nina owned that event (beam) her freshman year. She's struggling with her confidence right now."

E-mail: lham@desnews.com