Though the Maryland gymnastics team failed to accomplish its goal of breaking 196 points at Saturday's Raleigh Regional, coach Brett Nelligan's squad still views the performance as a positive sign for the program.
After missing the postseason the previous two seasons and being the lowest-ranked team at the regional, the Terps' 195.85 earned them a fourth-place finish and marked a successful return to the NCAA tournament, where they feel they belong every season.
"The team was feeling really good," all-arounder Kirsten Peterman said. "Competing at regionals was just icing on the cake and just showed how good this team really is and how much potential we have for the future."
Maryland had no seniors and just two juniors in its NCAA tournament lineups, using underclassmen to perform 21 of the 24 routines.
Peterman posted a 39 all-around mark — a higher score than her previous three meets — thanks to an improvement on beam. The sophomore earned a 9.625 on beam after scoring no better than a 9.5 at the previous three competitions.
With two weeks between the team's disappointing Big Ten Championships performance and the NCAA Regional, Peterman said she had time to focus on all of the inconsistencies in her beam routine.
"The atmosphere at regionals gave me a boost," Peterman said. "Just go out there and do the best for the team."
The squad's overall beam score also improved at the regional, matching its season-best score with a 48.95. Nelligan said it was the "sharpest it's ever been."
"Our beam has improved so much this year from start to finish," all-around Audrey Barber said. "What really helped us was coming in the gym and making our routines perfection."
But the team paired its strong beam performance with a disappointing floor rotation. The Terps scored 48.925 on floor after posting at least a 49 at seven of their previous 12 meets. Barber scored a 9.6 on floor, far below her 9.8 average, and junior Megan McClelland posted a 9.1.
"I was just tired. I was just feeling all of the past meets in my body, so when I went for that last pass, I was feeling pretty dead," Barber said. "[After I finished], I was feeling down, but my teammates really pumped me up by just reminding me of how well we did and to keep my head up high."
Altogether, Nelligan was proud of his team's performance. Every gymnast who performed a routine was making their tournament debut and — given their youth — seem poised for a return to the postseason next season.
"Our season ends now, but this is actually just the beginning of our journey and what we're going to do for this program," Nelligan said.