Gamecocks Dominate Kansas State, 15-5, on Opening Day
BLYTHEWOOD, S.C. - No. 3 South Carolina opened the college equestrian season on Friday in dominating fashion, as the Gamecocks defeated fifth-ranked Kansas State, 15-5, at One Wood Farm. The Gamecocks are now 1-0 on the season, while the Wildcats are 0-1.
South Carolina got a balanced attack on from its veteran lineup, as the hunt seat team cruised to an 8-2 victory, while the western team picked up a 7-3 win.
"I'm extremely proud of everybody for how well we did today, and I was happy to see all of their hard work pay off against a tough Kansas State team," South Carolina head coach Boo Major said. "This was the way you want to win a meet - having all four of your events go well, and seeing everybody go out there and really work hard and compete. I thought this was a complete effort across the board, and I have to tip my hat to Carol and Ruth for their outstanding coaching, and to our captains for helping bring everybody together."
There was little drama to Friday's meet, as the Gamecocks opened up with a 4-1 lead after reining. Senior Jordan Brown scored the first point of the meet, giving Carolina 1-0 lead that it would not give up the rest of the day. After Brown's 71-69 win over Emily Stockford, the reiners went on to win the next two points, jumping out to a 3-0 lead. Senior Johnna Letchworth made the most of her reining debut on Friday, as she edged K-State's Kelly Bovaird, 70.5-69.5. Junior Layla Choate followed with an MVP-winning performance, as she topped Margaret Peine to win her fifth career MVP. The Wildcats avoided the 5-0 sweep when Kara Guy won her head-to-head by a half-point, but sophomore Sarah Bouchard gave the Gamecocks a 4-1 lead when she defeated the Wildcats' Jordan Cox, 68-67.5.
"That was exactly how we needed to start the meet today, and I thought our reiners were fantastic," Major said. "They got the momentum going for us early and passed it off to the jumping team, and it just started clicking on all cylinders for us from there."
Holding an early 4-1 lead just a quarter of the way through Friday's meet, Carolina's jumping team made quick work of the Wildcats, winning the event, 4-1, and giving the Gamecocks an 8-2 lead at the halfway point. South Carolina had a total of five riders go 2-for-2 on Friday against K-State, four on the hunt seat team.
Sophomore Samantha Kraus kicked off her 2-for-2 day with a two-point victory over the Wildcats' Rachel Webster. After K-State won the next point to make it a 5-2 score, the Gamecocks closed out equitation over fences by winning the final three points. Junior Katherine Schmidt was named MVP for her 87-83 victory over Madison Wayda, the first point in her 2-for-2 day on Friday. Redshirt sophomore Samantha Smith went 2-for-2 in Friday's win, starting with her 12-point win over Henley Adkins, whom she would later go on to defeat in equitation on the flat. Sophomore Alexa Anthony also went 2-for-2 on Friday, as she won the first of her two points with a 76-75 win over Shana Barnett.
"I thought our jumpers were outstanding today and they kept the momentum going for us," Major said. "All four girls that won their jumping points went on to win their flat points, and that was huge for us, so I'm really proud of the hunt seat group today."
Up 8-2 after fences, the Gamecocks quickly slammed the door shut on Kansas State's comeback hopes. The horsemanship and flat teams combined to win seven of the final ten points, as Carolina closed out the meet for the ten-point victory.
In Horsemanship, the Wildcats won the first two points, but a trio of Gamecock seniors quickly turned the tide, as all three won their points to close out the event. Letchworth finished her perfect day by winning her team-leading 15th career MVP as she dropped K-State's Rachel Wetherell, 78-68.5. By going 2-for-2 on Friday, Letchworth became the first Gamecock western rider to go 2-for-2 in a dual meet in over four years.
Senior western captain Alison Ceresani followed next with a 77-76.5 win over Danielle Kemper. And senior Katie Kopf closed it out with a 76-74 victory over Amelia Crites.
"Even with the two points that we lost, I thought our horsemanship group was great today," Major said. "In the past, we've let other teams come back on us late in meets, so I was happy to see that we were able to ride well late and not give any points away. When you look at the horsemanship scores, three of the four highest scores came from our seniors, and hopefully that's something they can continue for us. That's what you like to see out of an experienced group."
In the flat arena, it was another dominating performance for the Gamecocks, who won the event, 4-1. After dropping the first point, Carolina went on to sweep the final four points with little suspense. Kraus, Schmidt, Anthony, and Smith all finished off their perfect days in the flat arena, as the foursome combined to go 8-for-8 with two MVP's. Anthony, pulling double-duty for South Carolina for the first time in her career, scored an event-high 87 on the flat, earning the junior her first career MVP.
"Last year, our flat team sometimes would give away points with some mistakes here and there, and today, you didn't see that, and our ability in all four events to eliminate mistakes is why we won today," Major said. "Alexa worked all summer on some things we wanted to work on, and today it paid off for her, and we couldn't be any happier. The same goes for Samantha Kraus, she was great for us and rode very well this afternoon."
The Gamecocks have the rest of the weekend off, but Carolina returns to action next Friday at 2 p.m. when they host Fresno State.