BRYAN, Texas - No. 1 South Carolina survived its first test as the top-ranked team in the country on Friday, as the Gamecocks beat No. 4 Texas A&M, 11-8, at the Brazos County Expo Complex. With the win, the Gamecocks are now 4-0 overall and 3-0 in conference play, while the Aggies fall to 4-3 overall and 0-3 in the conference. South Carolina also picked up Most Outstanding Player wins by redshirt freshman Samantha Smith and sophomore Cody McMillion.
The Gamecocks have now won ten straight dual meets dating back to last season. With this year being the first season of SEC equestrian, South Carolina becomes the first and only team to end the fall with a perfect conference record
"This was a great win for us today and a great way to start this road trip and I'm proud of everybody," South Carolina head coach Boo Major said. "Today's win gives us a perfect record in conference play for the fall, and that's certainly something to be proud of. Hats off to coach Sorrel, coach Gwin, and to our entire team because everyone has worked tirelessly this season they are all seeing it pay off in these results."
South Carolina began the meet with a late rally to win Equitation Over Fences, 3-2. After dropping the first two points to the Aggies, the Gamecocks swept the final three points.
Redshirt sophomore and Hunt Seat captain Amber Henter scored the Gamecocks' first point of the meet on Friday, as she defeated Leah Chenelle, 82-80. Sophomore Katherine Schmidt followed Henter with an 84-80 victory over Emily Williams, as she improved her jumping record to 3-1 this season. With Horsemanship taking place down in the Western arena, redshirt freshman Samantha Smith gave the Gamecocks a 4-2 lead as she ended the jumping event with an 84-71 victory over Kori Pickett.
"I was proud to see our girls bounce back and win those last three points, because with how well our Horsemanship was doing up in the other ring, we knew a strong jumping performance would set us up nicely for the second half of the meet," Major said. "Amber is now 4-0 for us this season and has been a great captain for our Hunt Seat team, and you certainly have to give credit to Katherine and Sam for putting up 84's."
In the Western arena, South Carolina's Horsemanship team kicked it in to high gear on Friday, as the Gamecocks won the event, 4-1. Freshman Kelsey Urban won her second point in a row on the road on Friday, as she defeated Carolina Ammons, 75-70.5. Junior Allison Ceresani picked up her first win of the season with a 75.5-73 victory over Carey Nowacek, giving the Gamecocks a 5-2 lead overall. Sophomore Sam Chiodo improved her record to 3-1 as she dropped A&M's Laura Brainard, 76.5-76. After the Aggies won the next point, redshirt junior Johnna Letchworth gave the Gamecocks a 7-3 lead as she beat the Aggies' Amanda Brightwell, 76.5-75.5.
"Our Horsemanship team certainly dominated today, and I thought it could have easily been a 5-0 sweep for us," Major said. "They've been knocking on the door all season, and just had a few bad breaks go against them, so to see them come out today against a great A&M Horsemanship team and win 4-1, that really tells you how good that entire group can be."
The Aggies made a second-half comeback, winning six of the final ten points, but could not overcome the deficit, as the Gamecocks held on for the 11-8 win.
In Equitation on the Flat, Smith capped her 2-for-2 day with a 81-74 victory over Haley Buchmiller, earning her first Most Outstanding Player award in the process. Freshman Sally Henry followed Smith by scoring the meet-clinching point with a 77-61 win over Marlena Parker, giving Carolina a 9-5 lead. Henry now leads the team with five wins. Senior Kimberly McCormack held Hannah Williams to an 80-80 tie. A&M went on to win the final two Flat points.
In Reining, South Carolina won two of three points, highlighted by sophomore Cody McMillion's Most Outstanding Player win. She knocked off A&M's Emma Myers with an event-high score of 74 to win her fourth career M.O.P., improving her record to 3-1 this season. Senior Melissa Mull picked up her first win of the season as she defeated the Aggies' Laura Sumrall, 69-68.5.
South Carolina continues its road trip on Saturday, as the Gamecocks will face No. 8 Baylor at Noon ET.