By Alex Littlehales
This Saturday was the year’s annual Pride meet for Maryland Gymnastics, as the team took the floor against the Michigan Wolverines, who came into the meet ranked No.5 in the entire nation. Backset by a roaring Terps fan section of a season high 2,207 in attendance, the stage was set for Maryland to take on the Big Ten powerhouse.
“Having over 2,000 people here is a huge help,” said senior Katy Dodds in a post meet interview. “Going out there in front of your friends and family, your school, it really gets the adrenaline going.”
The Terrapins would finish with a final score of 194.75, a 2.525-point defeat to Michigan’s 197.1 total. Despite never taking the lead after a round of events, the Terps held their own and never staggered throughout the entire meet.
Maryland would first take the vault while Michigan took to the bars in the first round. The meet started with strong vaults by seniors Shannon Skochko and Dodds posting scores of 9.75 and 9.85, respectively. Michigan would however fulfill their ranking as on of the top teams in the nation. On the bars during the first round, five out of six of the Wolverines would end with scores over 9.85, led by Austin Sheppard’s 9.25.
As the teams exchanged events, Senior Karen Tang would lead all Terps on the bars with a score of 9.8 landing a near perfect dismount. Over on the vaults, Michigan proved relentless with Talia Chiarelli, Nicole Artz, and Sachi Sugiyama all scoring 9.875, a task unreached by any Terp on the vaults.
With every consistently executed routine, the visiting Wolverines seemed to flourish off the energy of their teammates. Michigan proved to be dictating and controlling the energy of the floor. Despite scores diminished by minor errors on landings, Maryland only trailed one of the nations strongest programs by only .95 heading into the second half of events.
“We need to come out here and play our game,” said Maryland head coach Brett Nelligan when asked how he kept his team motivated throughout the entire meet. “This needs to be about us, and doing our very best gymnastics. It can’t be about who our opponent is.”
The Terps Achilles heel would end up being the beam portion of the evening, coincided with Michigan’s unrelentingly consistent scores on their floor routines. Sarah Faller would start off the Terps with a solid 9.725, and Dominiquea Trotter would end up with a 9.175 despite an impressive eye catching move as she held her entire body with what appeared to be just her neck. Skochko, although strong on the vaults, would struggle on the beam. A lack of balance and a fall from the beam left her with an event low of 8.975.
Michigan would continue to do what it has done all year, with four of the six floor participants scoring either 9.8 or above.
Despite down 2.75 points, the Terps stayed resilient, and continued supporting each other to the backing of the record breaking attendance in the Xfinity Center.
On the floor, the Terrapins were dancing along to the routines of their teammates in support, trying to squeeze every ounce of fight they had left in each other. Kathy Tang would post yet another solid performance with a final score of 9.8 for the routine, while Ebony Walters would finish with 9.85 giving her a tie for second place on the Floor. Michigan remained calm, cool and collective, as half of those participating on the beam scored at least a 9.9. Some last minute hope came when Talia Chiarelli dropped from the beam, but she would still end up scoring a 9.375, an impressive score considering a drop.
As the Terps fell to the victorious Wolverines, coach Nelligan remained optimistic about the future of his team.
When asked what it was like to play a top tier program like Michigan, he said, “They execute cleanly, they stick all their landings, and they’re very sharp. We are sharp at times too, but we ended up giving away too many tenths.”
The loss puts Maryland at 1-3 in Big Ten Conference play, but is looking to turn things around next Saturday. The Terrapins will play Cornell, Ursinus, and conference rival Rutgers in Piscataway, New Jersey.