March 29, 2013
AUBURN, Ala. - No. 6 South Carolina upset top-ranked Georgia, 10-7, in Friday's SEC semifinals at the 2013 equestrian championship. The Gamecocks advance to Saturday's championship meet, where Carolina will face No. 2 Auburn at the Auburn University Horse Center. Saturday's championship competition will begin at 3 p.m. ET.
The Gamecocks dominated the Bulldogs in Hunt Seat action, 8-2, highlighted by two MVP's and three riders going 2-for-2. In the Western portion of Friday's meet, the Bulldogs won, 5-2.
"I'm really proud of our entire team for a hard fought win this afternoon," South Carolina head coach Boo Major said. "Georgia is a tough opponent, but our girls were committed in practice and really wanted to show the potential of this group, and I think we did that today. Our Hunt Seat team really delivered for us today, and I'm exceptionally proud of our Flat lineup because they turned in their best performance of the season today."
The Gamecocks jumped out to a 4-1 lead after winning four of five points in Equitation Over Fences. After dropping the first point of Friday's meet, the Gamecocks won the final four jumping points, as Samantha Smith, Katherine Schmidt, Amber Henter, and Kimberly McCormack all won their points. Schmidt, McCormack, and Smith would go on to win their Flat points later in the meet, as the three riders combined to go 6-for-6 against Georgia. Schmidt earned MVP honors, as she cruised to a 165-149 victory over Georgia's Olivia Dorey.
"That was a great way to start off the meet and really built up some momentum for us," Major said. "Our jumping team has been terrific all season and they did exactly what we knew they were capable of doing."
In the Western arena, Georgia started to close the gap by winning Horsemanship, 2-1. Redshirt junior Johnna Letchworth earned her team-leading fifth MVP of the season on Friday, as she picked up a 153-132 victory over Megan Hawkins. Sophomore Sam Chiodo and freshman Kelsey Urban both held their Bulldog opponents to ties.
"For us to hold Georgia to just two points in one of their strongest events, I thought that was certainly a good thing," Major said. "Johnna and Sam both came in to this weekend leading the conference in Horsemanship wins, and Kelsey led the conference in road wins, so we know how good our Horsemanship team is and what they're capable of."
Leading 5-3 at the halfway point of Friday's meet, the Hunt Seat team delivered a blow to Georgia that the Bulldogs could not overcome, as the Equitation on the Flat team picked up a 4-1 victory. Smith, Schmidt, and McCormack all finished their 2-for-2 efforts by winning their Flat points, as McCormack won MVP honors for her victory over Georgia's Caitlyn Francis. Sally Henry also picked up a point for Carolina, as she defeated the Bulldogs' Megan Southam, 148-127.
"That was our best Flat performance of the season and it came at a really good time for us," Major said. "Our entire Hunt Seat team, including the girls that didn't compete today, is a very talented group and a very confident group. I thought they rode extremely well today and deserved every point that we won, and hopefully that's an effort that they can repeat tomorrow."
Leading 9-4, the Gamecocks slammed the door shut on Georgia's comeback hopes in Reining when Layla Choate held the Bulldogs' Becca Haaland to a 140-140 tie. With the meet already decided, Georgia went on to win two of the final three points for a final score of 10-7. Freshman Sarah Bouchard picked up South Carolina's one Reining point, as she edged Georgia's Samantha Belcher, 136.5-135.
Saturday's championship meet will be the first ever SEC championship competition in the sport of equestrian. The conference officially voted to add a conference championship during its meetings last summer.
South Carolina and Auburn will compete at 3 p.m. ET at the Auburn University Horse Center. The Gamecocks and Tigers split their season series, with each school winning 10-9 at their respective home facilities. To keep up with the action from tomorrow's meet, follow the SEC Championship Live Scoring Page.
• The Gamecocks have defeated Georgia three times within the last 12 months, each time coming with the Bulldogs ranked No. 1.
• Dating back to February 2012, the equestrian team has won four meets over top-ranked teams - three times against Georgia and once against Auburn.
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