The Maryland gymnastics team arrived for the Big Ten Championship at Rutgers on Saturday knowing its postseason hopes beyond the outing were in jeopardy after a poor performance last week.
Junior Evelyn Nee said earlier in the week she believed the Terps could boost their season average and qualify for the NCAA Regionals as one of the top 36 teams in the country, but after the Terps slogged through Saturday's meet, they learned their season was over.
Prior to the meet, the Terps ranked 34th, but Minnesota and Central Michigan moved up the rankings after Maryland finished the early session of the Big Ten Championships with a 193.625 for a last-place finish, the program's worst standing since joining the conference.
"Obviously we're disappointed," coach Brett Nelligan said. "I feel bad for these kids because they've worked hard all year. Today wasn't really representative of the team we are and how far we've come along this year."
Michigan won the title (197.30), while Illinois (196.875) and Iowa (196.725) completed the podium. Michigan State finished atop the standings during the Terps' session.
The Terps earned a season-high 48.925 on vault to start the competition with each gymnast recording at least a 9.725. After the first rotation, Maryland led the Spartans by .275.
Nelligan's squad appeared poised to extend that lead on bars, which the eighth-year leader called the team's "best event this season" in an interview with the Big Ten Network, but the gymnasts faltered. They scored a 47.500 with three total falls and didn't come within a point of the lead for the rest of the meet.
In that second rotation, freshman Kirsten Peterman recorded 9.85 to tie a career-best, but Maryland had to count a 9.05 from sophomore Shynelle Agaran and a 9.15 from freshman Alecia Farina.
Peterman posted a 39.025 all-around score for third place in the session and 12th in the conference.
The Terps tried to focus on the upcoming meet throughout the week's preparation, but senior Emily Brauckmuller thought the pending implications of a regional berth might have affected the Terps' performance in Piscataway, New Jersey.
"Today we just got a little ahead of ourselves in hoping to make it to regionals," Brauckmuller said. "All in all, this year, other than today, was a really good year for us."
Brauckmuller, who earned second-team All-Big Ten recognition earlier in the week, earned a career-high 9.825 on vault and posted a 9.575 on floor. Though she won't compete alongside her teammates again, she'll learn Monday whether she qualified as an individual for regionals.
"It'd be a privilege to be selected," Brauckmuller said. "I think I'm going to be excited and having fun because it's going to be my last floor routine."
Maryland finished its season ranked 37th in the country, one spot away from continuing the season as a squad. Still, Nelligan appreciated his program's progress this year.
"I'm really proud of this team and how far we've come and how hard everyone has worked," Nelligan said. "We did some things this year that were more important than any ranking or score."