By no means did Maryland gymnastics have a bad outing in the NCAA’s southeast Regional Semifinal.
Scoring 196.025, the Terps put up their highest-ever score in the NCAA tournament and their sixth consecutive 196-point meet. Still, it wasn’t enough to extend their season.
To pull off the upset, Maryland was in need of a huge outing or mistakes from No. 3 Michigan or No. 14 UCLA.
Sadly for the Terps, neither happened.
Maryland’s 196.025 gave them third place in the quad, with the Bruins coming out victorious on a 197.800, the Wolverines scoring 197.400 and No. 35 North Carolina placing last with a 195.150.
“At the end of every meet that we won this year, I told them that they can take 24 hours, and celebrate… And then let’s get back to work,” coach Brett Nelligan said. “Today, I told them I know we had high hopes, and if you’re disappointed, that’s okay — you can be disappointed for 24 hours, but you should celebrate this season for the rest of your life.”
There were some small flashes that could’ve led to a plethora of high scores, and despite some small surges, Maryland was unable to turn its momentum into a victory.
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On bars, where the Terps started out the meet, Maryland was unable to get the start it was looking for. The score of 48.775 is the second-lowest bars score the Terps have put up and their only sub-49 outing aside from the season opener.
Trailing early, Maryland was in need of a strong bounce-back on beam — and then it was faced with another setback.
The Terps’ leadoff on beam, Olivia Weir, had a major mishap and ended up splitting the beam. Maryland required five strong routines to follow, and the Terps appeared to have a chance of rejuvenation after 9.900 from Josephine Kogler.
“For Josephine [to do that] in her freshman year, [when] we needed a big hit, she came through and I felt like that was actually the start of our momentum for the rest of this meet,” Nelligan said.
And Kogler’s lights out performance was followed up by another 9.900 from Elizabeth DeBarberie. Adding to the extent of how impressive a 9.900 is, is that DeBarberie scored that one rotation after her disappointing 9.200 on bars.
“Credit to Lizzie, she wasn’t happy with her bar routine and I just pulled her aside. I said go get it back on beam, and she really attacked that routine,” Nelligan said
Still, heading into the latter half of the meet Maryland faced a sizable deficit, being eight-tenths out of second-place. A dominant finish would be the only way to stay alive, along with some lower scores from Michigan or UCLA.
On floor, the Terps didn’t make any mistakes, but there were no top-tier scores either. Alexa Rothenbuescher and Audrey Barber each posted 9.850’s, but with the four other gymnasts putting up sub-9.80’s, Maryland entered the final rotation needing luck on its side to keep the season alive.
That final rotation on vault was strong, but not enough to launch the Terps into the Regional Final.
With all six gymnasts scoring 9.8 or higher, the Terps logged a 49.175. Still, it didn’t get Maryland over the hump.
One of the more impressive parts of that vault lineup was that Weir was a part of it. Splitting the beam often leaves viewers with a cringed face, almost feeling the gymnasts’ pains of their legs falling on opposite sides of the four-inch rod.
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And although Weir appeared to be shaken up from the routine, she still managed to succeed on vault.
“We weren’t sure she was going to be able to go [compete] and we talked about pulling her out on vault. But Olivia is an absolute warrior, and there’s no way she was going to let us take her out,” Nelligan said.
The Terps, although the underdogs and unable to advance in Thursday’s quad, had their best season since Nelligan joined the coaching staff in 2004 prior to becoming head coach following the 2009 season.
With three of its top five all-time scores coming in the last month, records set on bars and vault and Barber earning countless accolades in her final year in College Park, Maryland ended the regular season as No. 20 in the nation.
It’s their highest finish since 2001.
Although, there was no fairy-tale ending, there was plenty of magic throughout the season for the Terps.
“This team and this season has been incredible,” Nelligan said. “The broken records, the wins, just being with this team — and their energy, and their passion for the sport, for each other and for Maryland — I loved every minute of it.”