As the Maryland gymnastics team entered its last rotation Friday, a victory was almost certainly out of the question. The Terps had struggled through the first three rotations, posting their lowest score of the season on bars and their lowest score on floor since Jan. 26 against Michigan.
With three sub-9.7s to start on vault, the Terps were effectively out of contention to keep their four-meet 195 streak alive. Still, Maryland had an opportunity to build some momentum for its next meet, a home matchup against George Washington, with three gymnasts left to perform on vault.
The all-conference duo of Audrey Barber and Alecia Farina put on spirited displays in the event en route to scores of 9.800 and 9.775, respectively. But it was freshman Alexsis Rubio who stole the show, anchoring the Terps with a 9.8 — tied for her second-best performance on vault — to supply the Terps a boost they had lacked for most of the night.
“[Alexsis’] vault at the end was incredible,” coach Brett Nelligan said. “She really finished the thing off, and that was one of her best vaults of the year.”
[Read more: Maryland gymnastics posts disappointing 194.825 at George Washington tri meet]
Rubio’s impressive display Friday was another indicator of her growing influence, something that the Terps have relied on as they stake their claim for another NCAA Regionals appearance.
Throughout the season, Rubio has been a constant in a solid Maryland vault rotation, which was ranked No. 33 entering Friday’s meet. Her consistent performances this season — she’s earned at least a 9.75 in all but one meet — have solidified her role as the vault anchor. And she’s taken that duty in stride.
“I just want to be able to help my team in any way that I can,” Rubio said.
With a bubbly personality and an industrious work ethic to boot, the affable Rubio — known as “Lex” to her teammates — has become an increasingly popular figure in the locker room.
“[Alexsis] is the person you look to who always has a smile on her face in the gym,” junior Emma Johnson said last month. “She’s a super hard worker [who has] really brought a level of intensity to the vault lineup this year.”
[Read more: With two meets in four days, Maryland gymnastics wants to build its momentum]
Rubio’s strong performance provided a boost for the Terps, who were appreciative of her impressive display. She earned her third score of at least 9.8 on vault in her last four meets.
With victory out of reach on Friday, her job was to provide Maryland with a positive finish to an otherwise disappointing meet — and she delivered, leaving her teammates to celebrate the effort rather than ruminate on their earlier struggles.
“Rubio’s vault really stuck out [to me],” junior Tiara Wright said. “It was the last event, and she was the last one to go and we ended [the meet] on a good note.”
So despite the rough outing Friday, Maryland hopes Rubio’s thrilling close to the meet will be a building block for Monday’s rematch against the Colonials. With Rubio’s continued improvement this season, the Terps are confident that they have unearthed a star.
“She’s got an amazing vault and she just continues to get better every time she competes,” Johnson said. “This is only the beginning for her.”