Few in the record crowd of 2,207 expected the Maryland Terrapins to upset the fifth-ranked Michigan Wolverines in Saturday night's gymnastics Pride meet at Xfinity Center, but at this stage of the season meets are as much about competing and improving scores as they are about winning head to competition in dual meets. The Terps score of 194.575 was better than every meet, but the one at Iowa, showing the need to progress even further if they hope to compete in the upper echelon of the Big Ten.
First rotation - Vault
For the first time in three meets, the Terps were able to start on the vault - a traditionally comfortable spot. Karen Tang led off the rotation with a strong effort for Maryland scoring a 9.725. Freshman Dominiquea Trotter followed with a 9.650 after coming down too far off center.
With the squads alternating events, I was able to glance at the Wolverines' bars routines. It quickly became apparent why they are among the nation's top squads. They got great height on their release moves and stuck dismount after dismount.
Meanwhile back at the vault, freshman Abbie Epperson continued her string of high level efforts. Epperson scored a 9.775. Kathy Tang matched Epperson's score despite taking a small half step on her dismount. Shannon Skochko followed with the Terps third straight 9.775 score with her dismount marred by the tiniest of hops. Rounding out Maryland's first rotation, Katy Dodds also had a small hop but registered the highest score of the night for the Terps a 9.800.
Michigan managed a pair of 9.900 scores added a 9.925 with their lowest scores coming in at 9.850 and 9.750. The Terps finished the rotation with a team score of 48.850 leaving them .475 behind the Wolverines. "I thought we started out well on vault but I thought the scoring was a little tight and we let that effect us," said Terrapins coach Brett Nelligan. "We can't do that. We're going to run into meets where the scoring is higher or lower and that shouldn't affect what we do in our performances," he added.
Second rotation - Bars
As she has all season, Sarah Faller led of Maryland's bars rotation. Faller performed as well as she has all season, sticking her dismount and earning a 9.750. Katy Dodds gave the Terps her usual solid routine picking up a 9.725. Freshman Evelyn Nee matched Faller's 9.750. Epperson was having an exceptional routine but under rotated her dismount scoring a disappointing 9.175. Nelligan said, "She got a little lost and had to break out. She's done it once or twice in the gym before but this was the first time we've seen it in competition. But the rest of the lineup did a great job stepping up and not letting that fall affect us."
The Tang sisters personified that. They anchored the rotation for Maryland with the Terps' two best scores of the night 9.800 and 9.825. The scores allowed Maryland to match their team high for the season with a 48.850 total.
Racing past the scorer's table for their vault rotation, the Wolverines widened their lead to nearly a full point. Michigan scored 49.150 bringing their team total to 98.625 after two rotations and appeared headed for a score in excess of 197.000. The Terps were sitting at 97.700 after two rotations.
Third rotation - Beam
Sophomore Sarah Faller faced both the honor and the pressure of getting Maryland off to a strong start to generate confidence for those who follow her on this psychologically challenging apparatus. Faller did just that with barely a bobble and she scored 9,725. Senior Dani Kram followed and though she had one major bobble was able to complete the routine without a fall. Her 9.550 didn't quite match her effort at Iowa but her 9.550 was her second best of the season.
While Kram avoided a fall, Trotter did not. The freshman landed off center on an aerial move and couldn't rescue herself. She managed only a 9.175. Sophomore Leah Slobodin had a great bounce back effort for the Terps picking the squad back up with a 9.775. Shannon Skochko stepped up next and the senior struggled from the outset saving herself from a fall on her first pass but falling later in the routine and posting a disappointing 8.975.
Anchoring the Terps, Stephanie Giameo continued to round into form. Giameo put up Maryland's highest score of the night on the beam - a 9.825. Despite having two falls, the Terps surpassed 48.000 (just barely with a 48.050) for only the second time in the season.
Competing on the floor, Michigan was able to extend their lead even further. The Wolverines once again surpassed 49.000 for the apparatus scoring 49.175. Their overall lead stood at 147.825 to 145.750.
Final Rotation - Floor
The Terps entered the final rotation needing their best score of the season in order to better the team result from the dual meet at Iowa. Looking at what appeared to be tight judging of Michigan's scores this scenario appeared improbable. Coming off her strong showing on the beam, Giameo opened the Terrapins' rotation on their new red mat. A big step on her final tumbling pass marred an otherwise strong routine and the senior picked up a 9.575.
Dominiquea Trotter followed looking to redeem herself from her fall off the beam. She did just that putting together a solid 9.700. Karen Tang's small misstep came on her second rumbling pass. Said Nelligan, "Tonight we gave away a lot of tenths and when you're going up against a top five team you can't give those tenths away." She still managed to match Trotter's 9.700. The younger Tang outdid her sister by a tenth of a point.
Senior Ebony Walters, in her usual penultimate spot put together a near flawless and exciting routine that registered a 9.85. Dodds anchored the Terps scoring 9.775. The Terps finished the rotation with a 48.825 - their highest score since they upset Minnesota in their first Big Ten meet.
In the end the 194.575 was a small step back from their score at Iowa but was their second best of the season. Michigan also failed to match their season best but their team total of 197.100 provided a comfortable margin for them in the dual.
After traveling to Rutgers for a four team meet next week, the Terps will return home where they will host former EAGL foes Towson and Geowge Washington and another familiar squad, the William and Mary Tribe on February 20th.