During Maryland gymnastics’ breakout 2018 season, the Terps never scored below 194 and broke 195 in just their third meet of the season.

They hoped to carry that momentum into this year, but Saturday against No. 8 Michigan, they posted their lowest score since the final meet of the 2017 season, falling 196.400-193.525.

Despite the slow start, coach Brett Nelligan and the team sees promise in the performances of their underclassmen. A year after a group with nearly no participating seniors returned the program to the NCAA tournament, the still-young team has reason to believe it will mature and make the required improvements to back up its surprising 2017.

“We’re going to pull ourselves out of this,” sophomore Collea Burgess said.

[Read more: Maryland gymnastics posts season-low score in 196.400-193.525 loss to No. 8 Michigan]

Prior to the season-opening quad meet, Nelligan earmarked some younger members of the team as potential key contributors, but also said he would have to wait and find out how they performed in competition rather than practice.

“I want to see how the freshmen react,” he said.

[Read more: Maryland gymnastics shows improvement but loses to Illinois, 195.075-194.950]

Last year, Nelligan’s underclassmen shined. Audrey Barber earned All-Big Ten first-team as a freshman, and Alecia Farina was second team in her sophomore campaign. They powered the Terps to their highest NCAA Regional score in program history.

Though this year’s start has been uneven, Maryland still sees promise in the performance of its underclassmen. The team’s two freshmen — Alexsis Rubio and Sanya Glauber — impressed in their debuts. Rubio earned a 9.75 on the vault, while Glauber scored a 9.85 on bars, placing in the top-three of both events.

The team has continued to rely on underclassmen since, with Barber and fellow sophomore Emilie LeBlanc pushing on after strong freshman seasons. Barber shook off a difficult 2019 debut to score at least 9.8 on bars and floor in each of the past two meets. Meanwhile, LeBlanc has scored at least 9.825 on bars in all three meets this season.

Burgess and Sabriyya Rouse have succeeded in their first three meets. After predominantly competing on floor and on the beam last year, Rouse made her vault debut against the Wolverines, highlighting Nelligan’s faith in her versatility. Similarly, Burgess, who solely competed on vault and beam last season, has competed on the floor this year, improving her score on floor in every meet this season, with a 9.775 against Michigan.

The contributions of these underclassmen, coupled with strong performances from Farina and junior Kirsten Peterman, have kept the team optimistic despite its early-season struggles.

While the majority of Maryland’s routines come from underclassmen, the veterans play a key role in keeping the group positive. The upperclassmen lean on their experience and do their best to lessen the pressure on their younger teammates.

“Now that I’m an upperclassman,” Peterman said, “it’s important for me to take on the role and give them a little boost going into their last pass.”