Injury-plagued Minnesota squad trying to improve team scores as it hosts No. 3 Utah

The Gophers’ team score fell three points from its first meet to its second.

Mark Heise

This weekend could shape up to be a big one for the Minnesota women’s gymnastics team.

A week after falling out of the top 25, the Gophers host No. 3 Utah on Saturday night at 6 at the Sports Pavilion.

Utah enters the meet following a 196.725-point showing last Saturday – topping Minnesota’s season-high by over two points.

Gophers coach Meg Stephenson said the team won’t be focusing on Utah, however, as a strong score means more than a win or a loss.

“In this sport, our win-loss record doesn’t mean anything for us; we’re really just looking for a good score,” she said. “The good thing about having a meet against a team like Utah is that we usually rise to the occasion, so hopefully we’ll see a better showing.”

Fighting through injuries will be the biggest challenge for Minnesota, with senior Kim Womack competing on a week-to-week basis and freshman Jamie Bullock competing in just one of her four events.

Due to yet another injury, sophomore Carmelina Carabajal, Minnesota’s top vaulter, will be removed from the vault lineup.

With so many setbacks, the Gophers will look to their depth to fill the holes.

“We have wonderful personnel, so that’s not an issue for us,” she said. “We just have to make sure they’re prepared mentally and perform to meet their potential.”

Stepping up was something Minnesota struggled with last week, dropping three points from its first meet to score just 191.175 in the loss.

The Gophers struggled specifically on the vault, as the team scored just 46.75 points.

Despite missing two top performers in the event, senior Kelly Ganchan said she felt this was something her team could improve.

“I think it’s very possible to improve on vault,” she said. “Everyone’s been working as hard as they can to fill the holes and use the opportunity to help out the team.”

Freshman Alexis Russell was one of the gymnasts inserted into a new role last weekend, entering the beam event for the first time this season.

As a freshman, Russell could be asked once again to tackle all four events on Saturday, but it didn’t seem to be something she was worried about.

“When someone goes down at this level, it’s really important for you to be able to take over and do what you can to help the team,” she said. “We weren’t ready to do that last week, but going into the Utah meet, I think we’re at a point where we all have the confidence and poise to be successful.”

Men in St. Paul

The sixth-ranked men’s gymnastics team is also at home this weekend, taking on No. 15 William & Mary at the St. Paul River Centre on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

The Gophers are coming off a strong meet last weekend, topping Illinois with 207.15 points. William & Mary have yet to reach 191 points this season.