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March 30, 2012

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BISHOP, Ga. – No. 6 South Carolina dominated third-ranked Auburn for the second time in five weeks, dropping the Tigers, 12-6, in Friday’s semifinal round of the 2012 Southern Equestrian Championships. South Carolina improves to 8-5 on the season, while the Tigers fall to an identical 8-5 mark. The Gamecocks will now face No. 1 Georgia on Saturday at 9:30 a.m. in the championship meet.

“Very proud of our entire team today,” South Carolina head coach Boo Major said. “This is a big win for us over a really good Auburn team, and do it twice in less than five weeks says volumes of what our girls are capable of. With that said, we all know how good of a team Georgia is, and we’ll probably have to kick it up a notch and ride even better tomorrow.”

The Gamecocks jumped out to an early 6-3 lead on Friday, thanks in part to an impressive 4-1 win in Equitation Over Fences. The Gamecocks won the first three points, as Amber Henter, Paige Dekko, and Kimberly McCormack all defeated their Auburn opponents. After junior Carolyn Curcio fell 173-169 to Auburn’s Jennifer Waxman, Gamecock freshman Katherine Schmidt scored a 179 to defeat Auburn’s Maggie McAlary, who scored a 172. Despite losing her point, Curcio was named MVP of the event.

“Hats to coach Carol Gwin for what our jumpers did today,” Major said. “That group has been solid all season, and to beat Auburn 4-1 and for Carolyn to pick up an MVP, it was a great way to start the meet. Our fences team, along with the Horsemanship team, set the tone for the rest of the meet.”

The Horsemanship team tied Auburn, 2-2, as Carolina held a 6-3 at the halfway point. Redshirt sophomore Johnna Letchworth knocked off Auburn’s Indy Roper to earn MVP honors, and freshman Sam Chiodo defeated her opponent, 144.5-143.5. Sophomore Alison Ceresani rode Auburn’s Kristin Hansen to a 144.5-144.5 tie.

In Equitation on the Flat, South Carolina and Auburn each scored two points apiece. McCormack and Schmidt completed their perfect 2-for-2 performances by winning their Flat points. McCormack earned MVP honors with a five-point victory over Auburn’s McAlary, and Schmidt knocked off the Tigers’ Christina Lin, 168-160.

While McCormack and Schmidt combined to go 4-for-4 on Friday with one MVP, Auburn’s McAlary, Lin, and Grace Socha went 0-for-6.

“Auburn has some terrific Hunt Seat riders, and they were selected as the No. 1 seed at Nationals this year in the Hunt Seat bracket, so we know full well how good they are,” Major said. “But we’ve been riding so well, and our preparation and focus has never been better, and all of that showed today in how well our ladies performed.”

With an 8-5 lead in hand, South Carolina’s Reining team slammed the door shut on Auburn’s comeback, winning four of five points, and sending the Gamecocks in to Saturday’s championship meet.

“Our Reining team was phenomenal today, no doubt about it,” Major said. “Coach Ruth Sorrel has worked tremendously with them this semester, and all of their hard work has really paid off. We’ve always known we have a great Reining team, and each meet, those girls continue to show that to everyone else.”

Junior Amanda Pope scored the first of four consecutive points for the Gamecocks on Friday, as she defeated Julianna Cook, 138.5-136.5. Senior Annie McDonald defeated Hansen, 138-135. Freshman Layla Choate earned MVP honors as she scored an event-high 143, knocking off Auburn’s Cheyenne Cracraft, who scored a 137.5. Audrey Jewell closed out the 4-0 run with a 137.5-136.5 over the Tigers’ Stephanie Rucci.

South Carolina and Georgia will meet on Saturday at 9:30 a.m. in the championship meet at the UGA Equestrian Complex. Live Scoring will be available ON OUR LIVE SCORING PAGE