" New faces, same team"
Gaining more experience is the goal for the Arizona gymnastics team as it heads to Utah this weekend to compete against Utah State and BYU, beginning tonight at 7 at Utah State.
The team has five new freshmen on a roster of 14 gymnasts. The Gymcats had to replace Colleen Fisher and Talyn Curry, who decided to retire due to injuries, along with their lone senior, Sarah Tomczyk.
But head coach Bill Ryden sees the turnover as a positive.
""I think the future looks bright,"" Ryden said. ""We have to get through the next few meets and get things sorted out. I think long term for February and March, I have hopes that this team will be pretty dang good.""
Junior Deanna Graham is hoping to replicate her efforts last season when she topped the team in the vault and floor exercises.
""In reality, I feel like we have more gymnasts now than we have had in quite a bit,"" Ryden said. ""Losing Sarah (Tomczyk) is a lot, but we also have a lot coming in. The experienced girls will handle the main stay of the routines, so it's a little different than last year when the freshman had to do something.""
Senior Miranda Russell and junior Rebecca Cardenas are expected to provide a boost this season after both missing time due to injury last year.
""The return of Miranda Russell on three events, which was great to see,"" said assistant head coach John Court when asked what will be different this year from last year. ""She looked the best she ever did on vault and floor than she ever did, it was a coach's dream. Also with a healthy Rebecca Cardenas I think we are going to be a different team than we are right now, but it will be a fun ride.""
Court estimated that it might take up to three weeks for the team to get into the swing of things as it usher in new faces along with the gymnasts coming off injuries.
Ryden said that he will rely heavily on the upperclassmen to help the freshmen along as they adjust to collegiate competition and the college life.
One of the upperclassmen that could emerge as a key gymnast this year is Katie Matusik. The junior suffered a foot injury early last year but was able to return halfway through the season. She said she feels 100 percent heading into the 2011 campaign and even did a bar routine for the first time ever last week at UCLA.
""We have the potential to make it nationals this year. We're a young team, but everyone has a lot of talent,"" Matusik said. ""We started off better then we have in the past two years, since I have been here, for the first meet. I am just really excited.""