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Jan. 22, 2009

BLYTHEWOOD, S.C. – The South Carolina equestrian team opens the fall season with its first ever trip to UT-Martin as the Gamecocks and Skyhawks are scheduled to begin competition at 11 a.m. at Ned McWherter Agricultural Pavilion.

Carolina enters the spring season with a 1-4 overall record and No. 7 national ranking in the latest National Equestrian Coaches poll. Coach Boo Major’s team will look to get back on the winning side after seeing her team have strong individual rides in the fall that she hopes will translate into more team winning efforts beginning Saturday.

“The team is practicing well,” Major said. “Most of the girls rode over the holidays so they are ready to go. We do have a few that are a bit rusty after the break, and we are working hard to get them up to speed. Several of the girls will be competing for the first time this year, and we are anxious to see how they perform under the pressure of competition. We will have some veterans there as well. I think we are as prepared as we can be for this early in the spring. We’re looking forward to a good meet.”

The Skyhawks enter with a 2-1 record after defeating SMU and Delaware State to open the fall before dropping their fall finale at Kansas State. The only common opponent the two teams have faced so far this season, the Gamecocks defeated Kansas State in the season opener 13-4 at One Wood Farm.

“It is going to be an interesting trip all the way around this weekend,” Major said. “We have never been to UT- Martin so we are certainly looking forward to visiting them for the first time. We’re taking a sleeper bus for the first time as well and really don’t know what to expect about that. I’m sure it will be fun.”

On the Hunter Seat side, riding in equitation will be Carly Babcock (2-0-1), Victoria Middleton (1-2), Rachel Koggan (1-1) and Alex Haskell (1-3). Babcock is the only Gamecock to go undefeated in the fall season with two wins, one tie and an MVP ride. Equitation over fences will feature Abbey Rohde, Courtney Reese (0-1), Katie Stenberg (0-1) and Paige Dekko (1-1). The ride will be the first of the season for Rohde. Dekko sports a 1-1 record but has the highest average on the team with an 83.5 average in two rides. She defeated Kansas State by 10 and dropped a one-point decision at Georgia.

On the Western side, riding in horsemanship will be Amy Biffle (0-5), Emily Bookwalter (0-3-1), Katie Grossnickle (3-1-1) and Taylor Singmaster (0-1). Grossnickle earned an MVP ride against TCU. Reining will feature Chloe Gray (2-3), Annie Laurie McDonald, Jackie McCaslin and Rebekah Roof (2-3). The rides will be the first of the year for McDonald and McCaslin who are both in their first year at South Carolina.

Carolina will return to One Wood Farm next Saturday, Jan. 31, when it hosts No. 2 Texas A&M for the first time. The Aggies were the 2008 national reserve champion, finishing second to national champion Georgia.