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April 14, 2011

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Championship Central

Coach Major – Day One at VENC

WACO, Texas – South Carolina’s Western team fell 5-3 to Georgia in the second round of the 2011 Varsity Equestrian National Championships on Thursday at the Extraco Events Center in Waco.

“We’re all disappointed in tonight’s loss,” South Carolina head coach Boo Major said. “But I first have to congratulate Georgia for a great win this evening. Their girls put together some great rides and some very impressive scores. As close as some of the scores were, I think our riders realize that some small mistakes on our part is what probably cost us.”

Thursday evening’s second-round competition started with Reining, where both teams took two points each. Senior Chloe Gray completed her 2-for-2 day on Thursday with a 140.5-140 victory over Diandra St. Hilaire. Sophomore Amanda Pope finished her 2-for-2 day with an event-high score of 141, defeating Georgia’s Hannah Dyer.

“Chloe shows up every year at Nationals so I wouldn’t expect anything else from her,” Major said. “And Amanda has been a trooper all year for us. She had a tough regular season, but the way the looked today out there, she could have gone against anybody and gotten those wins.”

Sophomore Audrey Jewell lost her ride by only a point and a half, and freshman Melia Blakely fell to her Bulldog opponent by just one point.

“Melia rode a fairly conservative ride tonight, which actually was a pretty smart move against a team like Georgia,” Major said. “To only lose by one point, there probably wasn’t anything we would have changed about her ride. And Audrey had a tough day too, but our reining team has been strong all season for us, and I expect they’ll be ready to face a strong Baylor team on Friday.”

Heading into Horsemanship tied 2-2, South Carolina won only one of four points, with the lone point coming from redshirt freshman All-American Johnna Letchworth. She scored a 146, defeating Georgia’s Dana Wilson, who scored a 140.5. Letchworth has won 13 straight rides, a streak that began Oct. 29, 2010 at Kansas State.

Georgia tied the competition at 3-3 as freshman Katie Kopf fell to the Bulldogs’ Katelyn Van Allen. The Bulldogs went on to when the two remaining points, clinching the 5-3 win.

“I thought Katie actually had quite a nice ride in there tonight,” Major said. “She’s been solid for us this season on the Horsemanship team this year, and she will only get better as her career goes on. We felt like if we got out of Reining tied 2-2, that our Horsemanship girls would give us a chance, and they certainly did tonight. Johnna got us started on the right foot, but Georgia’s riders just took over from there.”

With the loss, the fifth-seeded Western team will fall to the consolation bracket. The Gamecocks will face No. 8 seed Baylor on Friday afternoon. With the Western national championship now out of reach, the Gamecocks are still in the running for a fifth-place finish.

Saturday’s competition against Baylor can be followed live by visiting South Carolina’s Live Scoring Page.