South Carolina Equestrian Begins SEC Era with 13-7 Win Over OK-State
BLYTHEWOOD, S.C. - No. 4 South Carolina officially began the SEC era on Saturday, as the Gamecocks defeated No. 5 Oklahoma State, 13-7. The Gamecocks are now 1-0 on the 2012-2013 season, while the Cowgirls fall to 0-2.
"I'm very proud of our entire team as we were very prepared for today's meet," South Carolina head coach Boo Major said. "This was a complete effort across the board today, and I was thrilled to see us ride well against a strong Oklahoma State team."
South Carolina's win on Saturday comes nine months to the day since the Gamecocks' last home loss, which came to Oklahoma State on Jan. 29. South Carolina has now won seven straight dual meets dating back to last season.
The Gamecocks took an early lead as Carolina's reiners took three of five points from the Cowgirls. Sophomore Layla Choate scored South Carolina's first point of the season as she scored an event-high 73.5 to defeat the Cowgirls' Erin Willoughby. Fellow sophomore Cody McMillion followed Choate with a 69-61.5 win over Justine Peters, and senior captain Audrey Jewell scored the third point with a win over Taylor New.
"Hats off to Coach Sorrel and all of our Reiners this afternoon because they set the tone for us today," Major said. "They are a much stronger group than they were a year ago, and they really got the ball rolling for us. They've worked extremely hard and I think they really looked sharp against one of the top reining teams in the country."
Carolina took command of Saturday's meet as both teams moved down to the lower ring to compete in Equitation Over Fences. Freshman Sally Henry made the most of her Gamecock debut, winning her point with an event-high score of 88. Henry was named Most Outstanding Player for the event as she helped lead the jumpers to a 5-0 sweep over OK-State.
2012 All-American Katherine Schmidt began her 2-for-2 day with an 85-40 victory, followed up by redshirt freshman Samantha Smith, who made her Gamecock debut with a three-point victory over her Cowgirl opponent. Senior Kimberly McCormack and redshirt sophomore Amber Henter both posted back-to-back scores of 87, as both riders edged their Oklahoma State opponents.
"Coach Gwin and our entire jumping team should be proud of what they did today," Major said. "Anytime you are able to get a 5-0 sweep in any event, that says a lot about the quality of your riders, and we showed today we have a very talented jumping group. Sally has looked great all during preseason, and she proved today that she is ready to compete at this level."
Holding an 8-2 lead at the halfway point, Oklahoma State rallied, winning five of the final ten points, but could not overcome South Carolina's Horsemanship and Flat teams.
In Horsemanship, junior Katie Kopf and sophomore Sam Chiodo scored points for the Gamecocks. Kopf's score of 79 is the highest Horsemanship score by a Gamecock in at least the last four seasons, as she edged the Cowgirls' Lauren Halvorson, who scored 76.5. Chiodo scored the second-highest score of the event and the highest Horsemanship score by a sophomore in at least four seasons as she dropped Oklahoma State's Marissa Dalton, 78.5-77.
"Both Katie and Sam were phenomenal today," Major said. "Katie put together a great ride and she has been working hard since last season, and she deserved that win today. And for Sam to win her point says a lot about her as a competitor - she went in to the ring knowing she'd have to beat a 77, and she just went out there and rode like she always does."
Up 10-5, the Gamecocks wasted no time shutting the door on the Cowgirls, as Schmidt completed her two-point day with a 77-64 win, giving Carolina its 11th point of the meet, eliminating any possibility of an OK-State comeback.
McCormack also was perfect on Saturday, capping off her 2-for-2 day by being named Most Outstanding Player in Equitation on the Flat. McCormack, who is the team leader in career wins, scored an event-high 84 to defeat Samantha Harrison, who scored a 69.
Sophomore Alexa Anthony ended the meet with a four-point victory over Ali Rose, as the Hunt Seat team cruised to an 8-2 win.
The Gamecocks' Hunt Seat team is now 1-0 on the season, while the Western team dropped a 5-5 tiebreaker to fall to 0-1.
South Carolina continues its home stand on Thursday when the Gamecocks host No. 3 Auburn on Thursday at 2 p.m. in Blythewood.