March 29, 2013
AUBURN, Ala. -
The No. 1 seed Auburn Tigers advanced to the championship round of the SEC Equestrian Championship after defeating No. 4 seed Texas A&M, 11-8, Friday at the Auburn University Horse Center. Auburn will face No. 2 seed South Carolina on Saturday after the Gamecocks defeated No. 3 seed Georgia, 10-7.
"(Texas A&M) has one of the best Western teams in the country," Auburn head coach Greg Williams said. "We knew in order to secure a win, we'd need to rely on our Hunt Seat side, and they delivered huge. I was really happy with most of our rides on the Western end. I'm feeling really good about our Western squad right now. As I've said all year, as a team, we are extremely hard to beat. When one (discipline) dips a little bit, the other will be there to bail them out, and I love that."
Auburn's Hunt Seat riders handily defeated the Aggies, 7-3, winning equitation over fences, 4-1, and equitation on the flat, 3-2. In the Western arena, the Tigers fell, 5-4, as Texas A&M won horsemanship, 3-2, and tied in reining, 2-2.
The Tigers swept the Most Outstanding Player awards, as Christina Lin won for equitation over fences, Hasbrouck Donovan for equitation on the flat and senior Western rider Indy Roper took both Western MOP awards in horsemanship and reining.
"I didn't expect it at all, I can tell you that," Roper said. "Obviously Texas A&M is a really strong Western team. For me, it's just an honor. I think it comes from the support I had behind me. All those girls, the cheering, it was definitely an upbeat environment today, and I tried to thrive off that."
"I thought we all rode really well," Lin said. "I think we're all really excited going into the championship round. We really just came out and attacked it. I think we just had a few minor mistakes, but I was really proud of everyone, and we're working really hard."
In horsemanship, the Tigers earned key points from Roper (152.5-142) and Griffin Knight (152-132). Auburn took a 6-4 lead into the second half of competition and widened the lead after equitation on the flat.
"I really have gotten along well with both horses I rode," Donovan said. "I thought I connected really well and was fortunate enough to get to show Orlando at Georgia, so I think I kind of knew him a little bit, but I felt like we connected much better this time."
With a 9-6 advantage going into the final event, Auburn held on to collect the 11-8 win. The Tigers' last two points came behind strong rides from Roper (142-136) and Stephanie Rucci (143.5-142).
"I don't think that we rode perfectly today," Roper said. "Obviously there were some bobbles and mistakes in the horsemanship. The reining we can always improve. We can ride better tomorrow, and it's a tough South Carolina team. Every meet has been close, so it's really going to come down to who can put it together and just be clean. We have to be really accurate tomorrow."
Auburn will face South Carolina at 2 p.m. CT in the championship round. Georgia and Texas A&M will face off at 10 a.m. CT in the consolation round, and there will be an Equestrian Egg Hunt beginning at 10:30 a.m. at the Horse Center.
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