Annabeth Eberle was dominating in the home opener.
Jan. 16, 2004
SALT LAKE CITY -
Junior Annabeth Eberle won just about everything, the 2004 edition of the Utah gymnastics won over a crowd of 9,269 and No. 1 Utah won against No. 3 Nebraska 196.900-194.325 in Salt Lake City, Friday. The outcome was never in doubt for two reasons: another good effort by the Utes and a miserable night by the Huskers.
Nebraska, minus 2003 NCAA all-around and floor champion Richelle Simpson (sore knee), had at least one fall on every event and two falls on two events. Meanwhile, Utah was missing an All-American of its own-Veronique Leclerc, who sat out with an ankle injury. Replacing her were freshmen. In fact, the freshman class performed nearly 40 percent of the total routines.
While Utah also made some misses-one each on vault, bars and beam-none would cost the Utes for a second straight week. After the meet, a delighted Greg Marsden told his team, "I'm extremely pleased with how you competed again tonight. This team competes better than any team I've had in a long time. If one performer has a miss, the rest of you haven't let it affect you."
The boisterous gathering in the Huntsman Center was buzzing over Utah's extraordinary freshman class, but saved its biggest cheers for Eberle, who won the all-around with a 39.625, captured vault for the second straight week with a 9.90 and tied for first on beam (9.90) and floor (9.925). She took second place on the bars with a 9.90. Preventing an Eberle sweep was Ute freshman Rachel Tidd, who swung to a 9.925 on the bars and tied her junior teammate on the beam with a 9.90. Tidd, who went all-around last week at UCLA, settled for three events in this meet-scoring a 9.85 on the vault. Junior Gritt Hofmann got the crowd on its feet on her floor routine, tying Eberle with a 9.925.
With order restored on the second rotation, Utah cruised on the bars, scoring a 49.400 and widening its gap over the Huskers, who struggled again, posting a 48.675 on the vault. Tidd led the way with a career-best 9.925 to win the event and Eberle followed her with an extremely crisp routine that scored a 9.90. Ford closed the set with a 9.875.
The Utes ran into a few bumps in the middle their third rotation but came out of the balance beam with an acceptable 49.05. Steady sophomore Natalie Nicoloff started things off with a 9.825 and Tidd followed with a 9.90 beauty. A few balance checks cost Hofmann, who was dinged for a 9.675. Ford was flawless on the flick flack layout, layout series that cost her the week before, but tumbled off the beam on her tucked front. The fall didn't faze Eberle, who proceeded to tie Tidd for first place on the apparatus with a 9.90. Vituj fought her way to a 9.75 to finish the set. Nebraska couldn't take advantage of Utah's lowest event score of the night due to two falls on the floor exercise. After three events, Utah led by over two points (147.600-145.400).
All Utah needed to do was stay on its feet on the final event for a comfortable win and the Utes did more than that. Hofmann set a new career high to tie Eberle for the gold with a 9.925 and Ford lit up for a 9.875. Nebraska finished with its best apparatus score of the night (48.925) but it wasn't nearly enough to narrow the gap.