Steve Griffin, Deseret News
Red Rocks co-head coach Megan Marsden applauds her team during meet against Penn State at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019.
SALT LAKE CITY — Despite a convincing season-opening victory over Penn State over the weekend, expect to see some new faces on multiple events when the Red Rocks face off against the rival BYU Cougars Friday night at the Marriott Center.
Utah co-head coaches Megan Marsden and Tom Farden have adopted a new strategy this year, one characterized by fluidity in Utah’s lineups.
“There is going to be fluid movement with our lineups,” said Marsden. “Some of it is because Tom and I are interested in resting some people, but we also want to figure out what is our best combination for maxed-out scoring.
“The only way to do that is to make some lineup adjustments, which is a little scary at times, but we feel like that is necessary this year.”
In years past, the team was usually flexible early on, before settling on a lineup by midseason at the latest. This year, the Red Rocks hope to make regular lineup adjustments deep into the campaign.
“In recent years we have been a team that tries to figure out the lineup early on and kind of leave it that way, but we want to create a little more edge to this team,” Marsden said. “We want the girls to know that if some one performs better they might lose their spot. Create a little more competition. That competitiveness (between gymnasts) is already there, but we want to keep it going a little longer.”
Making a case to break into lineups are sophomore Alexia Burch, freshman Adrienne Randall, as well as juniors Missy Reinstadtler and Kim Tessen.
Burch and Randall competed in exhibition on beam and floor, respectively, against Penn State — Burch was also in the vault rotation, Randall the balance beam — while both Reinstadtler and Tessen warmed up with vaults valued at 10.0 ahead of the meet.
Also in lineup consideration is freshman Hunter Dula, who did not compete against the Nittany Lions because of a rib injury.
“They all have talent and everyone is vying for a spot,” All-American MyKayla Skinner said. “It is about who is going to be in the gym, who is going to get the job done and who can show it at the meets.
“I think it is kind of cool how the coaches are using a different strategy this year, putting other people in the lineup. By the time we get to Pac-12’s, regionals and nationals, we will have the right team.”
NEW BEGINNINGS: Tessen was the first Ute to take to the uneven bars against the Nittany Lions, on which she earned a 9.850.
It was her first time in the leadoff role — she manned the No. 5 spot in the rotation last season — and the new position has been a welcome change.
“I really like it. I feel more comfortable in leadoff than in fifth position,” Tessen said. “In the fifth position I had people ahead of me, and I had to set up MyKayla, which is obviously a lot of pressure. Being able to go first, hit a clean routine and let everyone else follow is better for me mentally.”
Tessen is healthy for the first time in over year, after offseason surgery corrected a debilitating shoulder injury.
“I had a shoulder injury I was battling all last year and I actually had surgery at the end of last season, but I am back now,” Tessen said.
WCGA RANKINGS: The Red Rocks are ranked No. 3 in the country following the opening weekend of action.
Only Oklahoma (198.050) and the defending champion UCLA Bruins (197.250) outscored the Utes (197.175).
Utah is ranked No. 2 in the nation on three of the four events, including vault, bars and floor. The Red Rocks are No. 10 nationally on beam, despite a performance that left the coaches wanting.
“I had people working pretty cautiously (on beam) and I feel like we are a better beam team than that,” Marsden said. “Knowing what happened with a couple of low scores on beam and floor, we still have quite a bit of improving that we can do.”