Maryland gymnastics had just posted a season-low on balance beam and was desperate to score a high tally in its final rotation, floor, against No. 15 Ohio State on Sunday.
Coach Brett Nelligan’s squad delivered. The floor unit didn’t outscore the Buckeyes, but closed the final margin to 0.825. The Terps earned a 49.275 behind dynamic and distinct routines and proved their No. 22 floor rotation deserves national recognition.
Nelligan’s sequencing built momentum and passion. He led off with the energetic Taylor Rech and anchored with the powerful Natalie Martin.
“We went out there and had a lot of fun,” Alexa Rothenbuescher said. “Floor is always a party and we went out there, did our thing.”
Rech led the way on the floor, twisting into a front double full. She used her power from the initial jump to rotate into a back somersault with two full twists. The sophomore moved into her second pass, a double back tuck that soared high into the air and landed cleanly.
She entered her dance elements with a long leap sequence that likely impressed the judges. Rech ended her routine with a one and a half to front layout to cap the Terps’ strong start with a 9.725.
Rech’s presence on the floor motivated the five following gymnasts and engaged everyone, Nelligan said.
The next Maryland gymnast, Shani Sirota, entered the unit for the first time in her collegiate career.
The sophomore was often in the team’s floor exhibition slot, which allows gymnasts to compete for a score that doesn’t count to the overall competition total. But an ankle injury to Tayler Osterhout in warmups brought Sirota in.
Despite not knowing she’d be competing until moments prior, she scored a 9.700.
“When her number was called, she did the job,” Nelligan said. “She stepped in there, incredibly solid first and second pass. A little trouble on the last pass but that’s gonna smooth out the more experience she gets.”
Rhea LeBlanc came next, kicking off a stretch where Maryland gymnasts scored 9.850 or higher in floor.LeBlanc, coming off a 9.775 on bars and a 9.825 on vault, emphasized her artistry in her leap series. She floated into a switch side leap to a wolf full, soaring high enough to rotate 180 degrees.
The junior finished with a Rudi, which is a difficult move requiring a gymnast to combine a somersault with a one and a half twist. Nelligan said LeBlanc continued the Terps’ momentum.
Maryland’s next floor performers, Maddie Komoroski, Rothenbuescher and Martin, ended the competition skillfully. Komoroski entered Sunday averaging 9.867 on floor.
She showed off her flexibility in a challenging switch ring to Ferrari. A gymnast competing this leap sequence hops into the air, fully extending their front leg straight while their back leg swings up to their head, turning in a full rotation. The gymnast must also move their head back toward their back leg to avoid deductions from the judges.
Komoroski wrapped up her routine with a ring leap and her final pose — she scored 9.875.
Rothenbuescher and Martin wrapped up the Terps’ play with a 9.925 and 9.900, respectively. Rothenbuescher finished her routine by perfectly sticking a double back pike. The senior soared high after gaining momentum in her back handspring to push off the ground.
Martin opened with a full-twisting double back tuck. The freshman flew into the air off a back handspring, twisting all the way around to end in a back tuck position.
Nelligan praised the three floor performances that completed the Terps’ floor rotation.
“Maddie, with unparalleled level of performance and grace on the floor,” Nelligan said. “Natalie with the big power, huge E tumbling first pass. And then Alexa, big dance, big tumbling and that solid two foot stick at the end. I mean, you really can’t beat that.”
While the floor gymnasts compete, their team dances along with them. Rothenbeuscher said the show of team camaraderie motivates her and puts a smile on her face.
“When everyone is right here when I’m doing my dance, it’s the best feeling,” she said. “Sometimes, it’s hard to control my smile. I’m smiling so hard I can’t see.”