Sophomore Aleka Tsiknias looked to maintain the momentum that Maryland gymnastics gained after posting a season-high 49.0 on the balance during its first rotation. But as she proceeded to dance and somersault her way through her routine, a series of mistakes earned her only a 9.05.
The rest of the Terps’ floor lineup put their resilience on display to earn the team a 49.025, ensuring it would keep its season-long streak of 49s on the apparatus intact.
And though it looked like the coach Brett Nelligan’s squad would cool off from its hot start on beam after Tsiknias’ floor routine, his lineup’s response helped light the spark the Terps needed to earn season highs in three events and a team-best 196.275.
“The energy level was incredible right from the start,” Nelligan said. “Everybody was dialed in, everyone was full energy, full focus, really positive, and it just carried us through the whole night.”
Maryland began the competition on the balance beam, an apparatus that it had failed to reach the 49-point mark on so far in the 2021 season. And after senior Collea Burgess’ leadoff 9.65, Nelligan’s team’s ability to reach that mark and get off to the hot start it was looking for was put into early question.
But freshman Olivia Weir immediately followed up Burgess’ performance with her second-best score this season, and sophomore Emma Silberman earned a career-best 9.85 to help the Terps reach a 49 in their opening rotation for the first time this season.
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“I think just the energy that my team brought just made me feel excited to go out there and compete and do what I know how to do,” Silberman said.
And the Terps only looked stronger over their next two rotations.
Nelligan’s squad competed on floor in its second rotation, where it entered Sunday’s meet ranked No. 15 in the nation. And despite Tsiknias’ wobbles and near-falls on the apparatus, her teammates responded with strong passes in their own routines.
Led by senior Sabriyya Rouse’s 9.85 and anchor Audrey Barber’s 9.825, Maryland grinded its way to a 49.025 in the event, and the Terps remained on pace to reach their first 196 of the season.
“If we have a fall or if we have any kind of trouble in the lineup, one of the things that we take pride in is responding right afterwards,” Nelligan said. “That’s something that we’ve always worked on and we take pride in ourselves at being good at.”
For the third rotation, Nelligan’s squad headed over to the vault, where it recorded a season high 49.175 during the Iowa Tri-Meet on Feb. 13. And as Reese McClure completed her leadoff routine on the apparatus, it looked like the Terps would hold onto their momentum as she posted a 9.825.
Only freshman Samantha Gilbert scored lower as the Terps recorded another season high for the second week in a row, earning a 49.225 that pulled them into first place in the meet for the first time on Sunday afternoon.
With a 147.25 going into the final rotation and a narrow lead, Nelligan’s team looked like it would reach the coveted 196 it has been shooting for all season. But first it had to tackle the uneven bars, its worst event this season.
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And a stronger leadoff performance on the bars from Tsiknias gave the Terps the momentum they needed for a strong finish. Silberman, Weir and fellow freshman Tayler Osterhout followed up with their season bests.
“Right before I went to do my routine, I could feel the energy and support coming off the team, and it really just gave me a sense of relief and confidence that helped me,” Osterhout said. “And after I landed it was just so exciting and I was just so happy.”
But with only two routines left, Barber suffered from some missteps and earned only a 9.275. Sophomore Sophia LeBlanc anchored the Terps’ lineup on the bars for the first time this season and earned a 9.70, her second-best of the season, helping pull Maryland to its third season high of the afternoon with a 49.025.
It was a strong display for Nelligan’s squad, which finally found its footing after weeks of slow starts and occasional wobbles. And although the Terps still have a ways to go to solidify their status among the Big Ten’s best, Sunday’s meet was a successful first step.
“That was our most complete performance of the season, so far, and I really do think there’s still more left in the tank,” Nelligan said. “It’s better when it all comes together at the same time… To put all four together: that’s what we expect now and that’s the level we want to be at for the remainder of the season.”