The GymTerps got off to a difficult start to their 2015 campaign. They hosted West Virginia and George Washington and not only lost a home meet for the first time since Feb. 18, 2012, but posted their lowest score of the season, a disappointing 193.025. The Terps recovered from that score and have been on a generally improving arc since. Friday was their chance to show the Colonials how far they'd come in the six weeks since the first meeting. The night was also Maryland's Pink Meet for Breast Cancer Awareness, an event Terrapins coach Brett Nelligan describes as, "felling like we're doing something."
First Rotation - Vault
As they do at all home meets, Maryland opened the meet with the vault. Leading off for the Terps was sophomore Leah Slobodin who got the Terps off to a flying start, putting up a 9.700. The confidence Slobodin generated seemed to spread through the five gymnasts who followed her. Nelligan's dynamic freshman duo Dominiquea Trotter and Abbie Epperson registered matching 9.825 scores. Not to be outdone, junior Kathy Tang gave the squad a third consecutive 9.825. Seniors Shannon Skochko and Katy Dodds anchored the rotation. Skochko leaped to a 9.750 and Dodds, in her usual anchor spot put up the highest score of the rotation for Maryland 9.850. Despite having a number of small steps and hops on the dismounts, the Terps finished the rotation with a team score of 49.075, their best since the meet at Iowa.
When the rotation ended, the Terrapins had a .625 point lead over Towson who had started on the uneven bars, a .775 lead over the Colonials who opened on the balance beam and a 1.425 point over William & Mary who opened on the floor.
Second rotation - Bars
Sarah Faller and Dodds got the Terps off to a spectacular start on their bars rotation. The sophomore and senior posted season-high scores with Faller ringing up a 9.775 and Dodds a 9.750. Freshman Evelyn Nee, who has become something of a bars specialist for the Terps, added another 9.750. As she did in the meet, Epperson struggled getting lost on her dismount and scoring a 9.150. Said Nelligan, "We feel like we have it fixed in the gym and now that it's happened again in a meet, we've got to make some adjustments to this dismount." However, just as they did against Michigan, the Tang sisters got the Terps back on solid ground with Kathy scoring 9.800 and Karen matching Faller's 9.775.
For the fifth time in seven meets, the Terps finished their bars rotation with a team score of 48.850. GWU used their time on the floor exercise to vault past the Tigers into second place. with a two-event team score of 97.525. The Tigers finished their first two rotations at 97.125 and the Tribe at 96.800. All three still trailed the Terps' two event total of 97.925.
Third rotation - Beam
In the meet at Rutgers, the beam was Maryland's second rotation. Although they didn't quite match the season high-score they posted at Iowa, they used the confidence provided by their solid 48.575 to propel them to their highest team score of the year. Faller opened the rotation and continued her special night, posting a 9.750, another season-high score on the apparatus. Continuing the evening's theme, senior Dani Kram bettered Faller's score with a 9.800, also her season best. The freshman Trotter followed with a workmanlike 9.500. The three Terps who closed the rotation all improved on that score. Skochko matched Kram's 9.800 and sophomore Leah Slobodin posted a 9.750. Stephanie Giameo, gradually rounding back into the form that earned her All-American honors as a sophomore, posted a 9.875 -- the night's highest score and the Terps had their highest beam score of the season at 48.975.
Despite this effort by the Terrapins,the Colonials, led by a 9.900 from Elena Corcoran and a spectacular 9.950 from Cami Drouin-Allaire, posted a team score of 49.475 on the vault and edged in front of the Terps by a tenth of a point in the team score holding a 147.000 to 146.900 margin. Towson and William & Mary trailed the leaders with scores of 146.050 and 143.000, respectively.
Fourth rotation - Floor
The Terps needed a big effort on the floor exercise to overtake the Colonials. Giameo, while excelling on the beam, has struggled on the floor at times this season and Friday was no exception. She failed to land cleanly on her first tumbling pass and scored only a 9.00, putting some pressure on the gymnasts to follow. Making a late change in the performance order, Nelligan moved Trotter to the second spot, ahead of Slobodin who dropped to third. The freshman responded, picking up a 9.775, but Slobodin struggled, posting only a 9.400.
By the time Karen Tang took to the mat for her routine, GWU had completed its bars rotation, finishing with a team score of 194.925. Karen rallied the Terps with a 9.850, but Kathy took a step off the mat on her final tumbling run and the mandatory one-tenth point deduction lowered her score to 9.575. Ebony Walters put her hands to the mat on her final pass and scored a 9.425 as Maryland posted its lowest score of the season, a 48.025, leaving the Terps and GWU in a 194.925 tie. As for what happened to his squad, Nelligan said, "Honestly, I'm not sure.I was shocked. It was like watching an accident happening in slow motion. the team was shocked, too. We've never done anything like that. Four kids made major mistakes."
The team has a very short turn around. They travel to Morgantown to face West Virginia, Rutgers and New Hampshire in another quad meet Sunday. "I look at this as an enormous opportunity," said Nelligan. "We have a chance to replace two scores in one weekend. Tonight, we just dropped the 193 from our average. If you do it right and you replace two scores in the same weekend you can really make a jump in the rankings and get up where we feel we belong."