It is the same song and dance every meet for the ASU gymnastics team.
An opponent ranked in the top 10, a roster full of All-Americans and not a single score below 195 on its record all sounds familiar to the Sun Devils. ASU has already faced No. 2 Oklahoma and No. 4 UCLA, and it takes on No. 9 Utah (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12) this Friday.
Head coach John Spini just puts all that aside.
“We need to make sure we’re not comparing ourselves to anyone else,” Spini said. “We’re just doing our job with things like better cast handstands. UCLA fell on floor, and they still scored a 9.6, but you can’t compare yourself to that because we’re not there yet.”
Sophomore Natasha Sundby reiterated her coach’s point.
“I think we just need to focus on our team,” she said. “We can’t be thinking about going up against such an awesome school and just use the crowd’s energy to our advantage.”
There will be a crowd. Utah has a huge fan following, with 14,917 people attending its home opener against Oregon State. As of Monday, Utah has sold 9,817 tickets for Friday’s meet.
And for good reason, sophomore Tory Wilson has taken the vault title for all three meets so far and is No. 2 in the nation on the event. She has scored a 9.95 the past two weeks in a row.
The Utes also have a top 10 competitor on bars in No. 5 sophomore Georgia Dabritz. She is also in the top 20 in the all-around competition at No.18. Her teammate, junior Corrie Lothrop, is No.13.
ASU is not without advantages. Coming off a season best score of 195.600 in a loss to UCLA, the Sun Devils moved up the rankings to No. 26. Sundby also was given the Pac-12 Special Performance of the Week award Tuesday after receiving a career high of 9.9 on floor.
“It’s a big thing to have an award for the school when it comes to recruiting,” she said. “I’m glad it helps out and just to have the recognition is awesome.”
Spini sees bigger awards in sight for the Sundby, but the whole team must step up to get her there.
“If Natasha is going to have a chance to be an All-American, we’ve got to get the team there since she only works three events,” Spini said.
He thinks they’ll achieve that by continuing to work on the little things.
Improvement from the seven freshmen has also been a boost for this team. Freshman Allie Salas wants to get even bigger scores.
“There’s always room for improvement,” Salas said. “In any event in college gymnastics, it’s all about how perfect you can be. You know: Leg straight here, maybe show off a little more here, split bigger here.”
Even though the young team is competing beyond their years, it doesn’t mean Spini doesn’t still worry about his athletes.
“I’m just hoping they find the airport,” Spini said. “I worry about everything, but I’m just trying to stay out of their way and let them have fun. I’m just trying to make the kids excited in knowing I have confidence in them.”
Sophomore Morgan Steigerwalt will be taking the sixth vault spot this week for the Gym Devils, which have only been vaulting five the last three meets.
The meet will be streamed online along with live scoring.
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