ASU gymnastics takes on UA looking for signature win

For ASU gymnastics, scoring a season-high 196.200 on Feb. 15 versus BYU was a big moment in its 2014 campaign.

But for the No. 22 Sun Devils, the challenge shifts when the possibility for a season-defining win comes this weekend as they host UA. ASU will be looking to avenge a 196.500-193.850 loss last year in Tucson.

“We’ve been practicing at a very high level the whole month, so I’m just hoping we keep that going,” assistant coach Tom Ward said. “In gymnastics, there’s no defense, so you really have to just focus on your team.”

While this year’s ASU team is much improved from the squad it fielded last year, UA also has a much improved roster.

The Wildcats are ranked No. 17 in the nation with their high score of the season being a 196.925, which they achieved in a loss to No. 1 Oklahoma, a team ASU faces in two weeks.

In losses to Utah and UCLA, ASU performed well for the most part throughout the meet but had mistakes on uneven bars and balance beam, costing it in the score column.

Against BYU, the Gym Devils put together great performances on both bars and beam in addition to their normal success on vault and floor.

“Our landings were better on bars and our dismounts,” Ward said. “On balance beam, we just got in a flow and a rhythm, and they were very confident in front of our crowd.”

Sophomore vault specialist Erin Hamister will miss the meet versus UA with a mild concussion endured on a vault in the BYU meet. She will likely be replaced in the vault lineup by freshman Gilly Hogue. Hamister is expected to return the following week.

While going up against an archrival is a great story for media and fans, the coaches and athletes try to keep focused on themselves, but they do acknowledge the importance of this meet.

“Anytime you go against your rival you’re going to be extremely motivated to beat them,” Ward said. “Being a Sun Devil, that’s something you’re expected to do is beat the Wildcats.”

Coach John Spini echoed Ward’s statement but said ultimately, it’s just another meet.

“Well, I think it’s really important for us to focus on doing great routines and not focus on who we’re going up against,” Spini said. “But it’s our rival. I’ve been a Sun Devil my whole life. We would love to go in there and do our job against them and throw everything out on the table and see where it falls.”

The meet takes place Saturday at Wells Fargo Arena at 4 p.m. and will be televised on Pac-12 Network Arizona.

Reach the reporter stheodor@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @shane_writes