During the Terrapins gymnastics team’s final rotation against Rutgers, coach Brett Nelligan stepped away from his team’s performances on the floor to talk with the judges.
Like the Terps, Nelligan was fighting for every 10th of a point. The Terps hit all six floor routines, resulting in a 48.95, but neither the gymnasts nor their coach could make up the deficit the Terps were heading into for the final event, and they fell 194.85-194.425. The deficit was largely due to a season-low 47.975 on beam.
In each of the Terps’ (2-6, 0-5 Big Ten) first four meets, they followed up slow starts with strong finishes. On Sunday, the team finally got the opening rotation they’ve been looking for.
“We’ve put so much emphasis on starting fast,” Nelligan said. “And we finally did, but then maybe we relaxed.”
The Terps had three miscues on beam that allowed Rutgers to erase their early lead. An early wobble put pressure on the final four performers to have clean routines, but the team couldn’t draw on their early momentum.
“A good start helps us build up to how we’re going to do for the rest of the meet,” senior Kathy Tang said. “But I think of each event as another routine that we’re going to do.”
Tang fell early in her routine, and sophomore Abbie Epperson had to grab on to the apparatus to keep her from suffering a fall as well.
“Both of those guys have been great this whole year,” Nelligan said. “It stinks when they both have their bad day on the same day.”
Tang and Epperson received scores of 9.15 and 9.2, respectively, season lows for both of them.
“It stinks that you hit it in practice and then that happens on the one you compete with,” Tang said. “But it happens to everyone.”
Earlier, though, Tang was able to pick up a teammate who’d faltered before her. On bars in the second rotation, Tang followed the team’s first misstep of the meet with a team-high 9.775, helping them to a 48.6.
The Terps were leading 97.6-97.45 halfway through the meet, but the low score on beam opened the door for the Scarlet Knights (3-7, 1-4). Then, Rutgers kept its nerve while closing the meet on beam, meaning the Terps’ efforts on floor wouldn’t be good enough.
“To win meets, you have to go 4-for-4 on the events,” Nelligan said. “It’s hard to pull out wins against quality opponents if you’re not.”
Without counting beam, the Terps outscored the Scarlet Knights by 0.475. The score disparity on beam, though, was 0.8. Adding in a one-tenth deduction due to a lineup error, the Terps lost by 0.425.
In every meet this year, the Terps have put up at least one season-high on an event. But inconsistency across all four events has held them back.
Sunday, it was beam.
“We know we’re an awesome team,” Tang said. “We can put it together in the meet, it just might take a little bit to get the ball rolling.”