Gamecocks Stun No. 1 Georgia to Win Southern Equestrian Championship
BISHOP, Ga. - No. 6 South Carolina handed top-ranked Georgia its second home loss in program history on Saturday, as the Gamecocks rallied to win the 2012 Southern Equestrian Championship at the UGA Equestrian Complex. Trailing 10-8, the Gamecocks scored the final two points of Saturday's meet, sending the competition to a 10-10 tiebreaker, where the Gamecocks prevailed on raw scores, 4,201-3,859.
South Carolina has won six meets in a row and now sits at 9-4 on the season, while Georgia falls to 11-3.
"This is a great moment for our Equestrian program," South Carolina head coach Boo Major said. "I am so proud of girls for their accomplishments all season, especially during the spring. Coach Sorrel, Coach Gwin, and myself are thrilled to see all of the girls' hard work pay off. Their hard work and preparation has gotten us this far, and now we're ready to go to Nationals."
The Gamecocks jumped out early with a 3-2 win in Equitation Over Fences, as Carolyn Curcio, Kimberly McCormack, and Katherine Schmidt all won their rides. Curcio dropped Georgia's Michelle Morris, 161-155. McCormack, who went 2-for-2 in Friday's win over Auburn, started another 2-for-2 performance by beating Olivia Dorey, 174-152. Schmidt tied a team-high 175 as she cruised past Megan Southam, 175-168.
In Horsemanship, South Carolina's lead disappeared as the Bulldogs took three of five points to tie it at five apiece.
Katie Kopf scored first for the Gamecocks, as she defeated Georgia's Katelyn Van Allen. Alison Ceresani followed Kopf with a 145.5-145 victory over Maria Salazar. The Bulldogs went on to win the final three points of the event.
Georgia took an 8-7 lead as the Bulldogs won three of five points in Equitation on the Flat. McCormack completed her 2-for-2 day and 4-for-4 weekend with a 165-163 win over Georgia's Morris, who was shutout on the day. Senior captain Colvin Hedgepeth rode past the Bulldogs' Grace Rogers, 174-167. Schmidt scored a team-high 175 in the Flat, but she fell to Georgia's Carly Anthony, who scored a 177 and was named MVP.
"At that point, we were disappointed with not getting at least one more point in the Flat, but we also knew that our Reiners were up to the challenge," Major said. "We knew we'd at least have to score three points to win, and our girls delivered against a very good Georgia team today."
The two teams went back-and-forth in Reining, as Georgia won two of the first three points and held a 10-8 lead. The Gamecocks got their eighth point when freshman Layla Choate defeated Georgia's Lauren Tieche, 141.5-138.
Trailing by two, the Gamecocks would need to win the final two points outright to win the competition. Since Georgia's Katelyn Van Allen scored a zero earlier in the meet, the Gamecocks held an advantage in raw scores, which are used to break ties at the end of a competition.
"There was a lot of pressure on Cody when she entered the ring," Major said. "For a freshman to go in knowing she had to win her point, Cody had a beautiful ride. She's been great for us all season and she certainly passed the pressure test today."
With Georgia holding a 10-9 lead, the Bulldogs' Sami Belcher entered the ring as the final rider of the meet. She needed to beat Amanda Pope's 137.5, but came up short, scoring a 136, as the Gamecocks won their first Southern Equestrian Championship in the ten years of the annual postseason tournament.
South Carolina returns to action April 12-14 when the Gamecocks travel to Waco, Texas, to compete in the National Collegiate Equestrian Association's National Championships. South Carolina's Hunt Seat team earned the No. 2 seed and will face the winner of the Texas A&M Fresno State meet. The Gamecocks' Western squad earned the No. 5 seed, and will face No. 12 seed Tennesee-Martin in the opening round of the Western bracket.