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Feb. 22, 2014

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BLYTHEWOOD, S.C. – No. 1 South Carolina stayed alive in the race for the No. 1 seed at next month’s SEC Championship, as the Gamecocks routed Texas A&M, 11-6, on Saturday at at One Wood Farm. The Gamecocks improve to 9-2 overall, 3-2 in SEC play, while the Aggies drop to 2-7, and finish SEC play with a 1-5 record. With the win on Saturday, the Gamecocks can clinch the No. 1 seed for the SEC Championship if they beat defending national champion Auburn next Saturday in Blythewood.

“First off, I just want to thank all of the fans that came out today, I thought we had a tremendous crowd and it was great to get a win in front of our home fans,” South Carolina head coach Boo Major said. “Dr. Pastides and Coach Tanner gave the girls a little pep talk before the meet, and it certainly was special to have them out there today to receive their SEC Championship rings and cheer us on this morning. As for the meet today, I thought that despite some mistakes on our end, we won the points that we needed to win so I’m proud of everyone for a good win today. We had a very productive week of practice, and that’s what we’ll need to again to get ready for a big meet against Auburn next weekend.”

South Carolina opened the meet by winning the opening point, when sophomore Sarah Bouchard knocked off Texas A&M rider Ashley Skold, 68.5-61, the largest margin of victory by any reiner on Saturday. After a 66-66 tie by Gamecock junior Layla Choate and A&M’s Ashley Doston, the Aggies won back-to-back points to take a 2-1 lead. Texas A&M’s lead lasted all of two minutes, when senior Johnna Letchworth edged Sarah Kate Grider, 71-70, to tie the meet at two apiece.

The Gamecocks’ jumping team wasted no time putting the Aggies away on Saturday, cruising to a 5-0 sweep in an event that Carolina’s riders outscored Texas A&M by 42 raw score points. The 5-0 sweep gave the Gamecocks a 7-2 lead at the halfway point of Saturday’s meet.

Hunt Seat captain Amber Henter kicked off the scoring streak when she defeated Marlena Parker, 76-72. Sophomore Samantha Kraus followed with a 14-point victory over Haley Webster, 81-67. Junior Alexa Anthony’s MVP streak now sits at three straight meets after the Redmond, Wash. native put on a clinic in her head-to-head against Kimmy Saul, winning the match-up, 88-78. Redshirt sophomore Samantha Smith followed with a 83-76 win over Hannah Williams, the first of her two points on Saturday. Finishing off the 5-0 sweep and improving her jumping record to a perfect 10-0 this season, junior Katherine Schmidt defeated Texas A&M’s Leah Chenelle, 84-77. Schmidt’s point proved to be the meet-winning point.

Leading by five points entering the second half of the meet, the Gamecocks were too much for Texas A&M, as Carolina won two points each in horsemanship and equitation on the flat to pull ahead for the win.

In horsemanship, Letchworth gave the Gamecocks an 8-3 lead en route to claiming her eighth MVP of the season and 22nd of her career, as she cruised by A&M’s Rachel Lucht, 75-71.5. After the Aggies won the next point to tighten Carolina’s lead to 8-4, senior Alison Ceresani edged A&M’s Caroline Ammons, 73.5-72.

In the flat arena, senior Kelsey Hart closed the door on Texas A&M’s comeback hopes when she held Aggie rider Paige Russell to a 75-75 tie. Late in the meet, leading 9-6, Smith and Schmidt finished off their 2-for-2 days, knocking off their A&M opponents to give Carolina it’s ninth victory of the season. Smith posted the second-highest flat score of the meet, edging A&M’s Megan Phillips, 86-84. Schmidt followed with a five-point win over Hannah Williams, giving the Connecticut native her team-leading 18th point of the season.

The Gamecocks return to action next Saturday, when Carolina hosts Auburn in the final home meet of the regular season. Saturday’s meet against the Tigers will begin at 10 a.m. in Blythewood, with senior day festivities set to take place before the meet.