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Maryland Gymnastics wins quad meet at West Virginia

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After competing Friday night and enduring a nine hour bus ride through the snow to Morgantown on Saturday, the GymTerps posted their second best score of the season besting the host Mountaineers, Rutgers and New Hampshire in the process.

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The weekend of February 20th was a good weekend to be a fan of the Maryland Terrapins. The softball squad won four of five games in California while Terps baseball won two of three in Alabama. The women's basketball team claimed the outright Big Ten championship. After a false start on Saturday, the women's lacrosse team registered a 13-11 win over second ranked North Carolina in the restart Sunday afternoon.

While some of this was transpiring, Friday night the GymTerps were busy tallying their highest team score in a home meet this season besting  Towson and William & Mary and tying George Washington. After the meet, when asked about having to compete again on Sunday, Maryland coach Brett Nelligan said, "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." And his squad of gymnasts did just that as they posted a team score of 195.350 their second highest of the season and enough to sweep the meet.

First rotation - Beam

An apparatus that was problematic for the Terrapins early in the season, the balance beam has gradually become one of the team's better events. The breakthrough came at Iowa where the Terps surpassed 48.000 for the first time and they have bettered 48.000 in every competition since.

In the leadoff spot, Sarah Faller has been a model of consistency. She has scored either 9.750 or 9.725 in every competition. She repeated the 9.725 on Sunday. Dani Kram also matched her score from Friday's meet putting up a solid 9.675. In the rotation's third spot, freshman Dominiquea Trotter posted a 9.800 - her best of the season. Shannon Skochko gave Maryland another solid performance putting up a 9.750. Although Leah Slobodin had a fall for the first time in competition this season, Stephanie Giameo anchored the Terps with a 9.800 and a team score of 48.750.

Second rotation - Floor

The Terps have been a bit up and down on the floor exercise this season. They had their highest score in the season's opening meet. After seeing their scores decline over the three subsequent meets, Maryland appeared to be moving in the right direction back toward that coveted 49.000 or better. Friday night, the Terrapins experienced something akin to what Nelligan called "watching an accident in slow motion." The Terps bounced back from that 48.025 to score 48.775 though it didn't look so promising when Giameo again struggled managing only a 9.150 in the leadoff spot.

For those unfamiliar with gymnastics scoring, six gymnasts perform on each apparatus. The lowest score is dropped and the five remaining scores are then added together to generate the team's score. Thus, when the first score is low, it adds an element of pressure to the routines of the gymnasts who follow.

Sunday afternoon, every one of them stepped up. Just as she had Friday night, Trotter got the Terps back on track posting a 9.725. Slobodin put her beam struggles behind her with a score of 9.800 that matched her season high. Karen Tang, who had an even more special moment awaiting, matched Slobodin's team high score. Karen's sister Kathy scored 9.675 and Ebony Walters anchored the rotation with a 9.775 score.

Third rotation - Vault

Under Nelligan, vault has been among Maryland's strongest events and 2015 has been no exception. Taking the leadoff spot, Slobodin matched her season high score with a 9.750. Maryland's dynamic freshmen followed as Trotter scored 9.725 and Abbie Epperson hit a 9.800. Kathy Tang's vault earned her a 9.775 - her highest score of the day. Shannon Skochko matched Epperson's 9.800 and the ever stead Katy Dodds rounded the rotation out with a 9.750. For those without a calculator handy, this gave the Terrapins a team score of 48.775 and a total of 146.400 after three events.

So, although the highly sought after 196.000 was likely out of reach, surpassing 195.000 was certainly attainable.

Fourth rotation - Bars

Maryland has been astonishingly consistent on the uneven bars in 2015. They struggled in the season opener with a team score of only 47.150. In five of the six meets that followed, the Terps scored a 48.850 with the lone exception a 48.000 at Iowa. Until Sunday. Thanks to a school record equaling performance, Maryland posted a season high team score.

The consistent Faller took the leadoff slot and set the tone with a 9.700. Dodds followed with a 9.675 and freshman Evelyn Nee matched her season best scoring 9.775. Epperson, who had lost her place during her dismount Friday showed her competitive gumption bouncing back to post a 9.800. Kathy Tang continued the momentum with her 9.750 but all of this served as merely an appetizer for the final routine of the night.

If you paid attention to a previous comment, you know that I am about to report something special from the elder of the Tang sisters. Karen Tang had a near perfect routine. Her score of 9.925 equaled the Maryland school record and propelled the Terps well past 195.000 to their final team score of 195.350.

Maryland got a measure of revenge against second place West Virginia which scored 195.200 and which had, along with George Washington had bested the Terps in the season's first meet. Rutgers at 194.825 and New Hampshire at 194.100 rounded out the team standings.

There are no gymnastics polls. A formula determines a team's average season score and their place in the standings. In last week's gymnastics standings, Maryland sat 38th but only the top 36 teams qualify for the NCAA Tournament. The Terps' two performances Friday and Sunday Will Likely vault them into that top 36.