It was senior night for the gym Terps in Comcast Center as the West Virginia Mountaineers came to College Park for the second time this season. The Terps edged the Mountaineers in mid January 193.675 to 193.500. Both squads bettered their January scores but the Terps again came out on top again registering their season high team score and besting the visitors 195.525 - 194.975. After the meet, Maryland coach Brett Nelligan said, "This was a night that we wanted to make special for the seniors. What was most important for us was to get the win and send the seniors out with another undefeated home season."
As for reaching the highest team score of the year to date, Nelligan added, "It's the time of the season when love runs high." Sorry, that was the Zombies. What Nelligan said was, "It's the time of the season where you have to start maxing out your scores. So for us to be able to come out here even with a little struggle on beam and put up such a great score is really phenomenal for us."
As the home team, the Terps opened the meet on the vault. Karen Tang got the Terps off to a promising start with a 9.80. Freshman Nikki Chung had a tiny hop on her dismount but still registered a solid 9.70. Another Terrapins freshman, Sarah Faller, stepped into the third slot and equaled Tang's 9.80. Stephanie Giameo, the reigning EAGL gymnast of the week collected Maryland's highest score on the apparatus with a 9.85 and Kathy Tang wrapped up Maryland's scoring on the event with a 9.75. West Virginia opened the meet on the uneven bars and held a slight team lead 49.05 to 48.90 when the teams swapped events,
The two seniors led off on the bars for the Terps and Elizabethe Manzi gave the squad an energizing start. She hit her release move and stuck the dismount while ringing up a strong 9.80. Jessi Black stepped into the second spot and topped her fellow senior. Black scored a 9.875 equaling the season and career high she reached earlier this season in the meet against North Carolina. One sure way to tell your team has had a particularly strong performance on a given apparatus is that the dropped score is 9.775.
For those of you who missed the brief summary of gymnastics scoring I gave to ES46NE10 in response to a question, you should know that a team sends six gymnasts to compete on each apparatus. Only the five highest scores count toward the team score in the competition. A perfect score in college gymnastics is still 10.00. Thus, when a team can drop a 9.775, it indicates that they had five scores closer to 10.00 and that a terrific rotation.
Getting back to the bars, Stephanie Giameo matched Manzi's 9.80. Then Kathy Tang placed herself between Manzi and Black with a 9.500. Karen Tang bettered her younger sister by .375 tying Manzi for the top spot on the apparatus. The Terrapins' team score for bars was an impressive 49.20 while the Mountaineers matched Maryland's 48.90 on the vault. After two events, the Terps held a slight 98.10 to 97.950 edge.
For the third round of competition, Maryland rotated to the balance beam and West Virginia moved to the floor. Freshman Sarah Faller had a bobble in her routine but stayed on the beam and started the Terps with a fine lead off score of 9.70. Scores appeared headed in the right direction when Karen Tang continued her strong showing for the day with a 9.75. However, Ebony Walters, fell off the beam on one trick and had a near fall on another. The junior had one of her lowest scores of the season. It fell to one of the seniors to get the Terps back on track. And Manzi stepped up and gave Maryland exactly the kind of performance they needed with a 9.825 score. "I guess this night was kind of magical for everyone involved," Manzi said afterward. "I wanted to leave here with no regrets and wanted to remember my last night at Comcast. I'm happy I could do that for my team. This meet was important not just for senior night but for our season as a whole."
Unfortunately Shannon Skochko followed Manzi's "stopper" routine with a fall. This meant the Terps would have to count one very low score. "They overthought it and second guessed themselves and you just can't do that on a four inch beam," Nelligan said citing the reason for his gymnasts' struggles. Giameo anchored the team and, like Manzi, put together a strong routine. In fact, her 9.875 proved to be the top score of the day in the event. Meanwhile, the Mountaineers were having some trouble of their own on the floor. Though their 48.60 bettered the Terps' 48.30 beam score and put them back in the team lead, Maryland is typically quite strong on the floor exercise and overcoming WVU's slim .150 lead seemed well within reach.
As the meet played out, the gym Terps would practically kill the floor exercise. Emily Brauckmuller and Dani Kram got Maryland started with identical 9.775 scores. Then Alex Zimmerman took it up a notch to 9.80. Giameo also received 9.775 in a routine that appeared to my eyes to have been underscored. Before Walters rebounded from her beam fall to score a 9.875 and tie for second, Karen Tang, whose family made a surprise visit, absolutely slammed her floor exercise scoring a 9.90. Though she would finish second in the all-around competition to West Virginia's Hope Sloanhoffer, Tang's 39.325 is a career best. "I was trying to make this night special for our seniors and it just so happened that I had a really great night, too," the redshirt junior said.
Next stop for the Terps will be another trip to Durham, New Hampshire on Saturday, March 22. Once there, the Terps will take part in their final EAGL Conference Championship Tournament before next year's move to the B1G.