Pride and redemption. These two words governed the night for the GymTerps as they took to the floor of Comcast Center for a rematch with North Carolina. Pride, because it was Pride Night - the event that brings together athletes from as many Terrapins sports as possible. Redemption because in Chapel Hill, after watching Katy Dodds tear her achilles tendon in warmups, the Terps put up one of their lowest scores of the year falling 194.700 to 192.300 to the Tar Heels. The gymnastics squad demonstrated the first and achieved the second as they defeated North Carolina 194.925 to 194.425.
As always, the home team opened on vault and the visitors on the bars. By the end of the first rotation, the Terps might have had reason to question whether they would, indeed, redeem themselves. Freshman Emily Brauckmuller opened the meet and took a step on her dismount, earning a 9.525 score. Another freshman stepped into the second spot for the Terps, Aussie Nikki Chung. Chung looked to have had a strong vault, getting good distance from the apparatus and firmly sticking her dismount. It didn't impress the judges quite as much as they gave her a solid, if unspectacular, 9.625.
"We want to put the athletes in an order that will continue to let the score rise," Coach Brett Nelligan said after the meet. "We have an idea of how the routines should go but sometimes the judges see it differently." Such was the case Friday night as the judges continued the pattern of tight scores with the next two gymnasts, Karen Tang and Sarah Faller, marking them at 9.600 and 9.525 respectively. Stephanie Giameo, an All-American on the beam, recaptured the momentum scoring a 9.725. This was not only Maryland's high score for the night on the vault but it would also land Giameo in a tie for first with Carolina's Haley Watts. Shannon Skochko rounded out the rotation with a 9.575.
Maryland finished the vault with a team score of 48.050; nearly half a point lower than their previous low score of the season. The team score is the total of the five highest scores among the six competing gymnasts. North Carolina, opening on the bars, scored 48.925 to hold a substantial .875 lead.
This is where the pride part of the evening stepped in. Nelligan rallied his squad. "We got together after vault and just said, this is not what tonight is about. Tonight is Pride Night. We're going to go out and attack every apparatus. We're going to go out there and fight and do our thing and have the best meet of our lives and the scores will catch up to us."
And that attack started on the bars as Nelligan looked to two seniors to get the Terps started. Elizabeth Manzi led things off well for Maryland scoring a 9.675 but, more importantly, sticking her dismount and boosting the team's energy and emotion. However, it was Jessie Black who really ignited the Terps. Black hit a stunning routine that scored a 9.875 - a score not only good enough for the win but a seasonal team high and personal best for the California native. Faller dug deep to hold her dismount and followed Black's score with a 9.800. Giameo provided another solid score with a 9.725. Kathy Tang, returning from the injury she suffered three weeks ago at New Hampshire, matched Faller's score. Big sister Karen topped her sibling with a 9.825. When the rotation ended, the Terps had amassed a score of 49.025 - their highest team score of the season on the bars. The massive score allowed Maryland to overtake Carolina, capturing a .300 lead halfway through the meet.
Next up for Maryland came the balance beam - an apparatus that had given the Terps trouble early in the season but on which they had shown steady improvement in recent meets. That improvement continued to a 48.775 team score - another season best. But this rotation was not without drama. After Faller led off for Maryland with a strong 9.700, Karen Tang, competing in her second all-around this season, faltered and fell off the beam scoring a 9.025. The task of picking the team back up fell to Ebony Walters. "The toughest thing to do in gymnastics is to follow a fall on beam," said Nelligan. "Ebony was calm, she was poised, she was confident and she gave that routine to the judges." And the judges gave Ebony a 9.800in return. The only Terrapin to better Walters would be Giameo who pulled down a 9.875 for her routine. Manzi and Skochko matched Faller's 9.700, offsetting Tang's score which would end up costing her placement in the all-around competition. Performing on the floor, the Tar Heels could only shave .025 off the Terrapins' team lead.
With only a .275 lead in the team score, the meet would come down to the final rotation. After Baruckmuller got the Terps off to a nice start with a 9.725, Alex Zimmerman, making her first appearance of the night, followed Dani Kram's 9.500 with a 9.775. Next up was Giameo whose 9.800 secured her the all-around title for the meet. Following Giameo, it was time for more pride and redemption. Karen Tang had to recover from he fall on the beam. "It provided some added incentive," she said. "I told myself I was going to make this the best routine I've ever done." And did she ever. Her 9.900 equalled her personal best, and tied Walters for the team high score for the season on the floor. Walters also had a stellar routine, nearly matching Tang by scoring a 9.875 of her own.
When the scores were all tallied, a Terp had won or tied for first on every apparatus (Giameo on vault and beam, Black on bars, and Tang on floor), a Terp (Giameo) had won the all-around, and the Terps had won the meet gaining that much sought redemption. "We feel ecstatic right now," Giameo said afterwards. ""We've worked so hard for this because it was so hard to lose that first meet to them - especially with them being in our conference. But the fact that we came out here on this special night, our Pride Night, wearing these Armour loetards, we deserved it. I'm really proud of our team."
The Terps hit the road for their next three meets before closing their home season Sunday March 16 at 2:00 pm, when West Virginia returns to Comcast for a rematch of a meet the Terps won early in the season.