COLLEGE STATION, Texas – The No. 9 Texas A&M equestrian team started conference action with a bang, fighting to a 10-9 upset win over No. 3 South Carolina at the Brazos County Expo Complex.
The win gives the Aggies a 2-1 record on the year, with a 1-0 mark in Southeastern Conference (SEC) competition, while the Gamecocks fall to 4-2 overall, and 0-2 in SEC action this season.
“I am so proud of the way we competed today,” head coach Tana McKay said. “It was crucial that we got an early lead, and that we didn’t give up when South Carolina tied the meet. Our riders have worked so hard this season and the results today really showed that. This was a big win for us, and I couldn’t be more proud of this team.”
The competition started with equitation over fences in the South Arena, where USC took an early 2-0 lead. The Aggies took the reins, though, as three consecutive wins by Marlena Parker, Hannah Williams and Leah Chenelle pushed Texas A&M ahead to a 3-2 advantage.
A dominant 4-1 performance in horsemanship gave the Aggies a comfortable, 7-3 lead, as the meet moved to the North Arena for equitation on the flat. Laura Brainard, Molli Jacobs, Logan Pluhar and Caroline Ammons each defeated their opponents to earn horsemanship points for A&M. Pluhar’s 74-point ride to top USC standout Johnna Letchworth’s 73.5-point effort earned Most Outstanding Player accolades for the sophomore for the second time this season.
South Carolina won four straight matchups on the flat to tie the competition at 7-7, but Paige Russell worked to a 71-68 victory to hand the Aggies a fresh one-point lead at 8-7 entering the final event of the day.
As the competition moved back to the South Arena for reining, the Aggies needed to win three of five rides to clinch the win. Laura Sumrall earned a 67.5-66.5 win for the first point of the event. With A&M leading 9-7, USC grabbed two quick points and tied the meet for a second time. Freshman Sarah Kate Grider battled to a 71-69.5 win as the Aggies regained the lead at 10-9.
With the meet riding on the final head-to-head, Pluhar entered the arena for the second time of the day. Her opponent, Cody McMillion had scored a 66 in the first round, and Pluhar matched the score exactly to tie McMillion and give the Aggies an upset win over the Gamecocks.
Texas A&M will be back in action next Friday, Nov. 1, when the Aggies compete at No. 5 TCU. To learn more about Texas A&M Equestrian, log on to AggieAthletics.com and follow @AggieEquestrian on Twitter.
In addition to a pair of new riders who joined team today, the Aggies were cheered on by Texas A&M Equestrian Honorary Captain Tacey Raulerson. Raulerson, who lost her eyesight due to cancer, is part of Team IMPACT (Inspire, Motivate, Play Against Challenges Together), a Boston-based nonprofit organization that seeks to improve the quality of life for children suffering from life-threatening illnesses. Team IMPACT is especially connected with college sports teams, allowing Raulerson to experience life as an athlete - getting a locker full of team gear, going to a competition, and spending time with the team as one of its own.