With her toes pointed toward the Xfinity Center ceiling, Maryland gymnastics sophomore Emma Silberman executed a solid handstand on the higher of the uneven bars before gracefully swinging back down and floating over to the low bar.
It was a smooth move, one that appeared to have her primed to build on the Terps’ season-best score.
But things soon turned sideways for Silberman and coach Brett Nelligan’s squad. Instead of landing on her feet, Silberman ended up on the mat, clutching her knee with a look of anguish.
The injury leaves Maryland without one of its stars as Rutgers visits College Park. Replacing Silberman, who competes in the all-around for the Terps, will not be easy.
“We know what Emma Silberman does for us from a scoring standpoint,” Nelligan said. “I think everyone’s ready to do their part to replace some of those numbers.”
And Nelligan’s squad may need to overcome more than just Silberman’s absence on Wednesday.
Three of Maryland’s other regular uneven bars competitors — Elizabeth DeBarberie, Tayler Osterhout and Olivia Weir — are expected to be cleared to return after undergoing COVID-19 contact tracing protocols. But their inactivity in practice over the weekend means the decision about whether they participate will be made during the meet.
With postseason contention in sight, the Terps need to find a way to carry forward their momentum from the Big Five meet and keep overcoming hurdles. Maryland put up its second-highest score of the season on Friday despite missing some key pieces, and it’ll look to improve on that performance with the additional preparation since then.
Nonetheless, Nelligan expects the rest of his bunch to step up during their teammates’ absences.
Junior Alexsis Rubio competed in the all-around for the first time in her career, posting a solid score of 39. Sophomore Sophia LeBlanc also notched a pair of career highs, including one on the balance beam, where she filled in for Weir.
With all the obstacles the Terps have had to overcome — including a long stretch of meets on the road halfway through their schedule — Nelligan remains impressed with his team’s mettle, seeing it as an important part of finishing the season strong.
“This is the end part where we have to be really, really tough, and we showed that we’re good at being tough,” Nelligan said.
The 12th-year coach is even more impressed by Maryland’s ability to continue performing at its best while keeping a positive mindset amid the uncertainties surrounding competition.
And that just might be the key to performing in the absence of one of their best.
“We want to go out there and have fun, and when we do that, I feel like we can reach our full potential,” LeBlanc said. “We’ve had so many challenges, but I feel like it’s made us stronger as a team, and we’re ready to finish the season out strong.”