Despite the Maryland gymnastics team's disappointing eighth-place finish at the Big Ten Championships, coach Brett Nelligan tried to uplift the team's feelings.

After all, the young squad had outperformed expectations all year and qualified for the evening session of the conference championship for the first time in program history, a performance that helped Nelligan earn Big Ten Coach of the Year.

"I'm honored," Nelligan said. "It means that as a program, we're moving in the right direction and people are starting to notice."

The team broke 196 twice this season after doing so just once in the previous two seasons combined. At the Maryland Quad Meet earlier in the season, the Terps scored a 196.575, the fourth-best score in program history and highest in the coach's nine-year tenure.

But that just made the team's struggles at the conference championships even more frustrating.

"I'm slightly disappointed because I know we could have done a lot better than we did," said freshman Audrey Barber. "We gave away a lot of points on silly mistakes that we normally wouldn't make in practice and even in other meets."

Still, the Terps' body of work qualified them for their eighth NCAA regional under Nelligan and first in three years.

The Terps ranked 14th in the nation on bars with a season-high score of 49.325.

"He is so proud of us," sophomore Kirsten Peterman said. "He's proud of what we've done this year as a team. Although it wasn't our best performance of the season, he is still proud of everything we did."

Nelligan said the team's struggles at the conference championships were on the margins, and that it did the "big stuff" right.

The Terps' 195.25 was their lowest score in their past five meets, but Nelligan encouraged them not to get too down. After all, the biggest weekend of the season looms in a couple weeks.

"We would have liked to do better in a few of the areas, but we are just trying to look at the season as a whole," Nelligan said. "We've done some really great things this year, so we are really proud of ourselves."