Senior Sarah Faller walked off the floor and into the locker room in disappointment during the Maryland gymnastics team's third-rotation bye in Saturday's Big Five Meet at Illinois.
Faller had just netted her lowest score on beam this season — an 8.975 — after falling. Because junior Dominiquea Trotter scored an 8.80, the Terps had to count Faller's score in their event total. That wasn't how Faller anticipated her final postseason run at Maryland would begin.
The Terps didn't recover from their beam miscues, finishing fifth with a 193.375 for their lowest score since mid-January and missing qualifying to the late session of the Big Ten Championships. But Faller vowed she and her teammates would remember the frustration and anger they felt in Champaign, Illinois, in the conference meet next weekend.
"We're going to come back and really kill it," Faller said. "We have to keep pushing and being relentless and fighting for every tenth [of a point]."
Throughout the meet, the Terps competed with their teammates about 20 feet away in a corral. Postseason rules dictate the team's separate cheering section, unlike regular-season competitions when the Terps can shout encouragement from closer to the apparatus.
Senior Leah Slobodin said no matter how loud she yelled, she felt the Terps were out of earshot when competing on beam.
"It's just a little more intimidating," Faller said, "and maybe it took its toll."
As Faller sat in the locker room after that routine, pondering what had just happened, Slobodin, whom she called her closest friend on the team, approached her.
"I was just having a really hard time because I know I can hit my beam routine spot on, every time," Faller said. "Leah kind of noticed that and asked, 'Hey, do you want to go talk about it?'"
Faller and Slobodin ventured to a quieter area outside the locker room. At first, Slobodin listened. Once Faller had recapped her beam routine, Slobodin told her not to worry and to enjoy the rest of the meet and senior year.
"She was still a little teary-eyed, and I wanted her to be in a good mood," Slobodin said. "I could tell she was feeling down on herself, but I also knew we needed her to be present because we still had half the meet left."
So, Slobodin began to crack jokes, trying to coax Faller into smiling. Faller said she felt more relaxed and "in the right mindset" after the talk. Slobodin and Faller, who have lived together since sophomore year, plan to do so after they graduate. They've grown close over the past three years.
"We're best friends," Slobodin said. "She's who I go to first for everything. We're inseparable. We laugh together. We vent together."
When the Terps returned to the competition, Faller didn't perform on floor, but in the final rotation, she posted a 9.725 on vault. The meet was already out of reach, but Faller felt it was important she finish on a positive note.
She hopes that translates to improvement in the Big Ten Championships, too.
"We're going to get back in the gym and attack it," coach Brett Nelligan said. "We got that out of our system."