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April 3, 2009

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BLYTHEWOOD, S.C. – South Carolina dropped a 15-5 decision at the Southern Equestrian Championships Friday at Georgia to end the program’s bid for a first SEC title. Megan Massaro, Alex Haskell and Maggie Fortune earned MVP rides for the Gamecocks.

Georgia advances to compete against top seeded Auburn tomorrow. The Bulldogs, who have never lost a home dual meet in program history, will seek its fifth consecutive SEC championship in Saturday’s final.

“I was proud of our girls,” South Carolina head coach Boo Major said. “I thought we rode well, and I was pleased with our girls. The competition was a lot closer than the scores reflected. I’m very proud of Megan Massaro with two wins and an MVP. We were pleased that Maggie and Alex were selected, and I feel like there were positive things that we take out of it. We’ll just keep riding the way we’ve been riding, and I think we’ll be successful at nationals.”

It was a difficult day for points for the members of the Garnet and Black with the Hunter Seat team suffering a 7-3 loss and the Western team falling 8-2. Massaro earned her sixth MVP ride of the year in equitation over fences with Carolina’s lone win in the event, 161-158. Massaro, the nation’s top seed in equitation on the flat, earned a 157.5-157 victory over Georgia’s Haylie Jayne to give the junior two wins on the night. Massaro and Jayne will meet up again at the Varsity Equestrian National Championships in two weeks as top-seeded Massaro and eight seed Jayne are scheduled to meet in the first round of the individual championship bracket. Victoria Middleton, the national No. 5 seed, recorded Carolina’s other win in equitation on the flat with a 134-120 victory.

Haskell received an MVP honor in equitation on the flat from one of the two judges in a tightly contested 136.5-133 loss to Georgia’s Emma Lipman.

Rebekah Roof and Chloe Gray earned Carolina’s two wins for the Western team as the duo both won points in reining. Roof took a 141.5-139.5 victory against Nichole Grant, and Gray defeated national No. 6 seed Sarah Locker, 142-141.5. In horsemanship, the Gamecocks were swept but Fortune was awarded MVP honors by one judge after falling 148-145.

South Carolina returns to action in two weeks when the team competes at the Varsity Equestrian National Championships in Waco, Texas from April 16-18. The Hunter Seat team is seeded third and has a first round bye while the Western team competes as a seven seed. Five individuals – Megan Massaro, Victoria Middleton, Carly Babcock, Katie Grossnickle and Nicole Bourgeois – also will compete in individual championship brackets for the Gamecocks.