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Jan. 24, 2009

MARTIN, Tenn. – The South Carolina equestrian team opened the spring season by defeating UT-Martin courtesy of a raw score tiebreaker (1045.5-1023.5) after the teams rode to an 8-8 draw Saturday at the Ned McWherter Agricultural Pavilion.

Both the Hunter Seat and Western teams registered 4-4 draws with sophomore Victoria Middleton earning MVP honors for South Carolina in equitation on the flat and junior Amy Biffle earning MVP honors in horsemanship. The Hunter Seat team earned the tiebreaker with a 516-498 raw score edge while the Western team earned the tiebreaker with a 529.5-525.5 raw score edge.

“We had a close meet with UT-Martin,” South Carolina head coach Boo Major said. “(Skyhawks) Coach Corvin had her team ready to go. We were weak in equitation over fences and need to improve there. We held our own in the other events. Victoria Middleton had a great ride on the flat and Emily Bookwalter did a super job in horsemanship. I also am pleased with Jackie winning her first time out in reining. Courtney also had a very solid ride over fences.”

In Hunter Seat, South Carolina dropped a 1-3 decision in equitation over fences before taking a 3-1 edge in equitation on the flat. On the flat, Middleton blew past the rest of the field with an 80 to earn MVP honors. She defeated the Skyhawks’s Michelle Thompson 80-73 for the seven-point victory. Carly Babcock continued her unbeaten season with a 73-67 win while Alex Haskell registered her second win of the season, 70-63. Over fences, Courtney Reese scored the lone victory for the Gamecocks with an 80-60 win, the largest margin of victory of the night in Hunter Seat.

The Western team had 2-2 draws in both reining and horsemanship. Emily Bookwalter and Katie Grossnickle both registered victories in horsemanship. Bookwalter’s 74.5-69 win was her first of the season while Grossnickle edged her opponent 76-75.5. Biffle earned MVP honors as the best overall rider despite falling in a close 77.5-77 ride. In reining, Chloe Gray won a 75.5-72.5 ride and freshman Jackie McCaslin won her first collegiate ride 74-73.5.

The Gamecocks are now 2-4 overall, winning their first meet since the season opener against Kansas State at One Woo Farm on Sept. 19. Carolina returns to One Wood Farm next Saturday, Jan. 31, when the team hosts Texas A&M for the first time. The meet between two-time national champion South Carolina and 2008 reserve national champion Texas A&M is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m.