COLUMBIA, S.C. - South Carolina's equestrian team will put its No. 1 ranking on the line this weekend, as the Gamecocks travel to Texas to compete against three opponents in three consecutive days. In the team's final action of the fall, South Carolina will compete against Texas A&M on Friday, Baylor on Saturday, and SMU on Sunday.
"We're looking forward to going out to Texas and seeing what we can do against three really strong teams," South Carolina head coach Boo Major said. "When you're ranked No. 1, you know you're going to get your opponent's best effort every time, so we are going to need three straight days of excellent riding in order to have a successful weekend. Through our first three meets, our girls have learned that when you don't make many mistakes, you set yourself up in a good position to win. We'll need to ride well all weekend and I certainly think we're up for the challenge."
TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN For the first time since 2009, the Gamecocks find themselves ranked No. 1 in the country. After starting the season ranked fourth, the Gamecocks' undefeated record forced a shakeup last week in the coaches poll. South Carolina last was ranked No. 1 during the 2009 season, when the Gamecocks held the top spot from Oct. 6-20, before dropping down to No. 2.
A LOOK AT THE TOP-10 Here is a look at this week's NCEA Coaches Poll.
Ranking/Team/Points 1. South Carolina (99) 2. Auburn (88) 3. Georgia (77) 4. Texas A&M (68) 5. Kansas State (59) 6. Oklahoma State (49) 7. Texas Christian (38) 8. Baylor (31) 9. New Mexico State (11) 10. Southern Methodist (8)
The next coaches poll will be released on Nov. 28. It will be the final poll of the fall.
AGAINST THE NATIONAL CHAMPS The fourth-ranked Aggies are the defending NCEA Overall National Champion, and the defending NCEA Western National Champion.
FIRST MEETING AS SEC FOES Friday's meet between South Carolina and Texas A&M will mark the schools' first meeting as SEC opponents. The Aggies officially joined the SEC this season, giving the conference four schools that sponsor the sport of equestrian - which helped lead the SEC to add a conference championship in equestrian beginning this season.
LAST MEETING VS. TEXAS A&M Last year at the NCEA National Championships, Texas A&M derailed South Carolina's chances for a third national championship. On the second day of competition, the Aggies' Hunt Seat and Western teams eliminated South Carolina from championship contention.
LAST TIME IN COLLEGE STATION The Gamecocks last competed in College Station on Jan. 28, 2011, falling to the Aggies, 15-5.. Then-No. 1 Texas A&M jumped out to an early 5-0 lead after sweeping the Gamecocks in Equitation Over Fences. The Aggies extended the score to 9-1 after A&M picked up a 4-1 Horsemanship victory, with Carolina's Johnna Letchworth scoring the Gamecocks' only point of the event. In Equitation on the Flat, the Gamecocks avoided another 5-0 sweep as then-freshman Emma Johnson scored South Carolina's only point. Kimberly McCormack, a sophomore at the time, posted a career-high Flat score of 94, but she lost her point to A&M's rider, who scored a 95. McCormack still was named MVP for the Flat, her fourth MVP that season. South Carolina won it's only event at the end of the meet as the Gamecocks edged the Aggies in Reining, 3-2.
THEY KNOW In the Western meeting at nationals last season, the top-seeded Aggies eliminated fifth-seeded South Carolina, 4-3.
Texas A&M jumped out to an early 3-0 lead after shutting the Gamecocks out in Reining. South Carolina made a comeback in the Horsemanship portion of the meet, but dropped the meet by a point. The Aggies had a rider post a score of 148 in the first round of competition, setting up a showdown with then-senior Maggie Fortune. Fortune put up one of the strongest individual rides at last year's nationals, but fell short with a score of 146.
LAST MEETING VS. BAYLOR South Carolina defeated Baylor, 15-4, in the team's last meeting on Feb. 26, 2012. On Senior Day, then-No. 5 South Carolina dominated the fourth-ranked Bears on both ends of the scoresheet, including a 10-0 sweep in Hunt Seat action.
Baylor struck first, jumping out to a 4-1 lead in Reining.
But South Carolina responded, winning the next 14 points consecutively, to drop the Bears, 15-4.
LAST TIME IN WACO South Carolina last faced Baylor in Waco on Jan. 30, 2011. On head coach Boo Major's birthday, then-No. 6 South Carolina put on a dominating performance, beating the eighth-ranked Bears, 12-6.
The Gamecocks claimed three of four MVP's on the day, as the Hunt Seat team picked up a 7-3 win and the Western team won, 5-3.
LAST MEETING VS. SMU South Carolina and SMU faced off last season on Oct. 28, 2011 at BuckBranch Farm in Texas.
The Gamecocks started the meet by winning four of six points in Equitation on the Flat. Then-senior Colvin Hedgepeth picked up MVP honors with a ten-point victory.
The Mustangs rallied, winning the first two points in Equitation Over Fences to even the score at 4-4. But the Gamecocks won two of the final three points, as then-senior Paige Dekko scored the meet-clinching point as she picked up an 84-80 victory over her opponent.
CLOSING OUT THE FALL Sunday's meet at No. 10 SMU will mark South Carolina's final meet of the fall. The Gamecocks return to action on Feb. 2, 2013 when Carolina hosts Georgia at One Wood Farm in Blythewood. The Gamecocks have six regular season meets scheduled for the spring, with home meets against Georgia (Feb. 2), Texas A&M (Feb. 23), and Delaware State (Mar. 1). South Carolina hits the road in the spring for meets at Auburn (Feb. 14), Kansas State (Mar. 8), and Oklahoma State (Mar. 9).
After the regular season is over, the Gamecocks will travel to Auburn, Ala. for the inaugural SEC Equestrian Championship, which will run Mar. 29-30. After the SEC Championship, the Gamecocks will head to Waco for the NCEA National Championships, which run April 18-20.