If the Big Ten coaches who voted in the conference’s preseason poll know what they’re talking about, this could be a close match up: Penn State ranked sixth in the poll, while Maryland finished seventh. I’m yet to be convinced that the coaches do, in fact, understand how the teams in the Big Ten stack up (Nebraska ranking third in the conference isn’t looking so hot right now…) but we’ll see what happens.
Maryland could have been in trouble last year when all around star Audrey Barber was ruled academically ineligible. Instead, the freshman class stepped up in a big way to keep the team not just alive but revitalized, with more depth and energy than we’ve seen in College Park for sometimes. Now key contributers Reese McClure, Emma Silberman and Aleka Tsiknias bring experience and confidence to their sophomore season as Barber rejoins. The Terrapins were very close to the 197.000 mark without Barber this year, so with her, there’s a great deal of potential.
Two elite freshmen join a strong Penn State roster led by all arounders Lauren Bridgens and Cassidy Rushlow. We don’t have enough lineup information to know for sure how much either elite will contribute, but Abi Walker has been minimally present in training and season preview materials, while Maddie Johnston is being described as a major lineup presence.
Oh wow, apparently Maryland has never won in Rec Hall. I love those records.
And Lauren Bridgens is out with a torn Achilles. Not good news.
Rotation 1: Penn State vault, Maryland bars
Howell (PSU): Very soft on the table, pikey and underrotated on a FTY, chest way down and dives forward. In the side view you can see she almost kicked the table in the air. 9.525
Tsiknias (UMD): Blind to Jaeger, flexed feet and catches with a bit of bent elbows, pretty double lay and holds it for a second before stepping to salute. 9.675
Bladon (PSU): Similar vault to Howell, very bent elbows and piked throughout but keeps her chest up and controls the landing better. 9.675
LeBlanc (UMD): A bit tight on the first handstand, half turn to Gienger with a bit of form and a dead hang out of it. Good bail, blind full double back with a little hop. 9.65
Johnston (PSU): Much better vault on the table, still substantial piking but just a small hop in place. 9.775
DeBarberie (UMD): Ray, caught close and you can hear the bar clang but she keeps moving. She might have hit her foot. Form break on the bail, great double layout stuck. 8.925
Cross (PSU): Still piked throughout but stuck! Some of these vaults might be in downgrade territory, it’s seriously aggressive, but at least the landings are safer. 9.85 okay…
Glauber (UMD): Tkachev, big and gorgeous, clear hip to bail. Casts too aggressively, goes over and falls. Double layout with a hop back. 9.2
Bonsall (PSU): Much more stretched FTY with a hop back. Twisting onto the table in slow mo but this is a lesser concern comparatively. 9.825
Silberman (UMD): Gorgeous Gienger, nailed the bail. Maybe a shy handstand on the HB. Double lay stuck. Clutch. 9.85
Rushlow (PSU): Gorgeous block with straight elbows on her FTY and a hop in place. Tangibly superior to the rest of the lineup.
Barber (UMD): Clear hip to Hindorff to overshoot, a little close but works through, shy on a HB handstand, double layout with a step back. Solid, they’ll at least be able to drop the DeBarberie score. 9.85
Astarita in ex for Penn State. Pikey and underrotated with a step forward.
After 1: Penn State 48.950, Maryland 48.225
That was a pretty hairy rotation, but looking toward the rest of the season, advantage Maryland because what we saw from the Terps is a fundamentally good rotation with a few mistakes while Penn State’s issues were technical and not easy to fix. That rotation misses Bridgens badly.
Penn State pulling a freshman-heavy lineup on bars, which makes sense given what’s returning but might be a gut check.
Rotation 2: Maryland vault, Penn State bars
Johnston (PSU): Cast to handstand, over the top but stays on, tries twice more to cast to handstand and has to jump off. Maloney to bail, solid, shy on handstands but I don’t blame her. Blind full double back, has to cowboy hard to get it around and takes a step forward. 8.875 but there’s a conference so it might change.
McClure (UMD): Nice straight elbows onto the table, near-stick and she screams YEAH LET’S GO which I love. More screaming in gymnastics. 9.85
Cross (PSU): Blind to Jaeger, great, really extended hips in her handstands… and just as I say that she arches one. Really natural, technical bars though. Blind full double back a little deep with a step to salute. Should be pleased with that as a debut. 9.75
Silberman (UMD): Full on tuck off, badly short and takes a big step forward. Block timing issue. 9.525
Verdeflor (PSU): Blind to Jaeger and falls. Just too far, one of those full stretch falls where the dowels weren’t over the bar. Finishes strong, pretty blind full double back. 9.125
Gilbert (UMD): Yurchenko half, tucked with a big step forward. Okay, the bent knees don’t look as bad in the side view which is what the judges have. 9.7 maybe a touch generous.
Ayers (PSU): Catches the Gienger too close and has a form break, another one on a full turn before the overshoot, pretty double lay with her weight just a touch forward and takes a medium step. 9.725
Burgess (UMD): Once as a kid she broke her arm pretending to vault off the sofa arm. This is her redemption arc. Huge, pretty FTY with a hop back. 9.8
Rushlow (PSU): Jaeger goes a little sideways but catches clean, good overshoot, blind full double back stuck. First really good bars routine for the Nittany Lions. 9.825
Barber (UMD): VERY close to a stick on her massive FTY. Up on her toes and has to scoot a bit to salute but that was GORGEOUS, no sign of pike. I’d have gone higher than 9.85
Bonsall (PSU): Maloney with leg sep to bail, pretty clean, double layout deep with a big hop forward. 9.825
Rubio (UMD): Massive FTY and just a one foot shift. The amplitude in this rotation is totally bonkers. 9.875
After 2: Maryland 97.300, Penn State 97.200
Maryland vault being less than two tenths behind Penn State is… not what I would have done. Some of the least amplitude vs. the most amplitude I’ve ever seen in a group of Yurchenko fulls and Maryland had the edge in landings, too. Oh well.
Both teams counting a fall on bars now levels the playing field. Maryland floor could go big last year and it’s a strength for Audrey Barber, too.
Rotation 3: Penn State beam, Maryland floor
Bladon (PSU): BHS LOSO, solid. Cat leap side somi, lands with her weight forward, breaks at the hips and has to jump off. Switch to side aerial, pretty good, gainer full. 9.15
Penn State is celebrating by touching the backs of their hands together which I’m not convinced is actually better than high fiving. Mask discipline has been pretty good for both teams all meet, though.
Tsiknias (UMD): Rudi LOSO, doesn’t split her legs until late, I’d love to see her do a true layout. Switch ring tour jete 1/2 with pretty questionable positions. Front double full super controlled! Apart from the split issues, as good as you could hope for a lead off. 9.8
Ayers (PSU): Ooooh her side split mount is spectacular. She doesn’t have her feet sickled on the beam like most gymnasts do on that skill, she’s actually sitting down with her feet free and pointed. Front aerial, leans and falls. Front aerial BHS BHS and falls again. Pity, that’s so pretty. Developee to the front into a back walkover, gorgeous leaps, her flexibility is spectacular. Side aerial back full with a hop. 8.55
Silberman (UMD): Rudi to LOSO, well extended and lovely. Switch side Popa potentially underrotated. Front double full with a step forward. She does a gainer back elbow-spring in her choreography which is nifty. Love these late routine double fulls. 9.8
Johnston (PSU): BHS LOSO, legs in front of her. Split to sheep with a position issue. Missed a second because of a stream issue, one and a half stuck-ish. 9.825
McClure (UMD): Double back HUGE and well-landed. She just seems so comfortable this year. Front lay to Rudi, another super secure landing. Tour jete half Popa, excellent and great precision on the rotation. Front lay front full, bit of a wiggle with the front foot, GOOD. 9.875
Cross (PSU): Gorgeous handstand choreo to start the routine, BHS LOSO with knees. Split to sheep, another pretty questionable sheep shape, kickover front to beat. One and a half twist, stuck. Great routine. She’s been so resilient under pressure in her first college meet. 9.875 and she deserves it.
Rouse (UMD): Good double pike, couldn’t see her feet on the landing because the coach was in the way but she didn’t go far so let’s assume she was fine. One and a half front lay, splits the legs a bit but good landing, tour jete half Popa great. Rocking double back. I don’t think I’ve seen an uncontrolled landing yet from the Terps, ridiculously sharp for January. 9.825
Verdeflor (PSU): Wolf turn, front aerial to Korbut with an arm swing in the middle. Check on a side aerial, another on the split double stag, but pretty minor. Side somi back tuck stuck. Should be in good shape unless they take the acro series which they might. 9.775
Burgess (UMD): Good triple, lifts up the front foot a touch. Switch 1/2 wolf 3/2… it’s SO rare to see that jump fully rotated and hers is excellent. Front lay front full gets a touch crunchy at the end but apparently it’s new for her so there’s time to improve.
Rushlow (PSU): Beat jump split 3/4, excellent extension. BHS LOSO, off line and a swim check but hangs on. Switch split, more great splits, side aerial with another check, one and a half with a couple steps to the side.
Barber (UMD): GREAT full in, controls the landing perfectly and then just chills there for a few seconds like she’s daring you to argue with it. One and a half front lay and she holds it again, turns and smiles at the judges. Yeah girl, we see you. Popa Popa combo, very clean. Double back. Nothing to debate there. 9.85 OK I’m gonna go fight the judges brb
After 3: Maryland 146.525, Penn State 145.450
Great exhibition beam routine for Astarita. Penn State’s beam rotation was GORGEOUS, once the freshmen get their nerves under control that will be a power rotation. The toe point is out of control from top to bottom. When Maggie Ayers hits a routine… phew.
Maryland was STONE FREAKING COLD on floor. That was a 49.225 rotation and it could (maybe should) have gone higher. It will go higher later in the season. Such a power group, such smart routine planning. Incredibly impressive rotation.
Rotation 4: Maryland beam, Penn State floor
Burgess (UMD): Cat leap kickover front, major lean forward but gets it back. Kickover front BHS clean. Guess that was meant to be her acro series but we should be in business now. Switch straddle 1/4, great, side somi and falls. Gainer front full with a step. 9.0
Ayers (PSU): Front through double back, underrotated and puts her hands down. She’s a great dancer. Switch side Popa. Double pike, good, pretty leaps to finish. SO MANY two pass routines today and I love it. 8.975
Weir (UMD): BHS LOSO unsteady but gets through it with no check. Split to LOSO, switch straddle 1/4 with minor split issues. Cat leap switch side, one and a half twist with a cross step to salute. 9.725
Bladon (PSU): Double pike, chest down but lunges out OK. Double back badly cowboyed and drops her hands. Counting a fall now for the third event in a row. 9.05
Rouse (UMD): LOSO to straddle, touch of knees in the LOSO, BHS LOSO with a minor lean. Switch straddle 1/4, step on dismount. 9.7
Rushlow (PSU): Gorgeous choreography, she must have ballet somewhere in her past and I don’t say that lightly. Double back good, great leg form, some knee and ankle angst on her twisting but gets through clean. 9.825
Silberman (UMD): Check on dance, BHS LOSO with knees but secure. Switch straddle 1/4, good, one and a half dismount planted. She’s such a robust competitor these days, she apparently had a bad touch but got it done in competition. 9.7
Bonsall (PSU): Good double back, one and a half front lay really good, solid double pike with a longer lunge. 9.825
McClure (UMD): Front aerial BHS great. Looked like she wasn’t quite over her feet on the aerial and it worked out fine. Switch straddle 1/4, full turn, kickover front to split jump. Higher than kick fronts usually are, she landed with her legs almost straight. RUDI STUCK. OKAY. 9.925!!
Allen (PSU): Good double layout! Maybe a bit short but powerful enough that she was able to finesse it. Switch side Popa, super solid, front thru double back nailed. Good one. She is hyped. 9.85
Barber (UMD): Front aerial BHS BHS and falls 🙁 Kickover front to beat, switch split, double twist dismount stuck. 9.3
Astarito (PSU): Open double tuck stuck dead OH MY. One and a half front lay, super clean, switch side Popa underrotated. Double pike good! 9.875
FINAL: Maryland 194.875, Penn State 193.875
Maryland’s first ever win inside Rec Hall!!
Lot of potential from both teams today. Maryland counted two falls, Penn State counted three. These team scores might not look wonderful but it’ll be easy to jump back up the rankings. Maryland floor is pretty much postseason ready—that’s the rotation that really stood out today. Penn State has some mental game work to do with Bridgens out, but there’s tons of gorgeous, gorgeous gymnastics that will bring in great scores later in the season.
VT: Alexis Rubio (UMD) 9.875
UB: Emma SIlberman, Audrey Barber (UMD) 9.850
BB: Reese McClure (UMD) 9.925
FX: Reese McClure, Collea Burgess (UMD), Melissa Astarita (PSU) 9.875
AA: Cassidy Rushlow (PSU) 39.100
Live blog by Rebecca Scally
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