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Oct. 10, 2014

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AUBURN, Ala. – No. 6 South Carolina picked up its first win of the season on Friday, upsetting No. 3 Auburn, 10-9, at the Auburn University Horse Center. The Gamecocks are now 1-2 overall, 1-1 in SEC play, while Auburn drops to 1-1 overall, and 0-1 in conference action.

Friday’s win marks South Carolina’s fifth straight win over the Tigers, dating back to the 2013 Southeastern Conference Championship. The Gamecocks have outscored Auburn, 54-36 in that span.

“This was a great win for us today and I’m very proud of our girls for how hard they fought today,” South Carolina head coach Boo Major said. “We knew Auburn was going to give us their best shot today, so it was nice to see us get a tough road win. Auburn had about three weeks to get ready for this meet, and we had just six days, so that really tells me a lot about this team and what we’re capable of. We’ll build on this and look to have two really good weeks of practice as we get ready to face Texas A&M on Halloween.”

Friday’s meet began in the hunt seat arena, where the Gamecocks won 3-of-5 points to jump out to an early lead. Carolina junior Samantha Kraus scored the first point of the meet, cruising past Auburn’s Megan Bigano, 90-80. The Tigers won back-to-back points to take a 2-1 lead, but Carolina got stormed back with two straight points to win the event. Senior captain Amber Henter posted a 91-78 victory over Peyton Smith to tie the meet at 2-2, improving to 3-0 on the season. Senior Katherine Schmidt kicked off another 2-for-2 performance when she cruised by the Tigers’ Demi Stiegler, 92-84.

“That was important for us to start strong today, and our jumping team certainly did that for us,” Major said. “I also want to congratulate Hillary on her first win since joining our coaching staff, because she’s been a great asset to our riders. Sammi K, Amber, and Katherine all posted very high scores today, which is tough to do on the road, so I was proud of them for that.”

In the western arena, the Tigers used a 3-2 win by their horsemanship to tie the meet at five apiece at the halfway point. Gamecock sophomore Bailey Mierzejewski won her first career point on Friday, posting the second-highest horsemanship score as she locked off Katie Buff, 74-70.5. After the Tigers won three straight points, Auburn took a 5-4 lead, marking the final time on Friday that the Gamecocks trailed. Senior captain Sam Chiodo tied the meet at 5-5 when she posted an event-high score of 74.5 to beat Griffin Knight by one point while picking up her second MVP of the season.

“Very proud of Sam and very proud of Bailey for their points this afternoon,” Major said. “Bailey’s had some tough luck here and there in some previous rides and has done a great job of staying confident in herself, and that really showed today. And Sam’s been a great leader for our western team and specifically our horsemanship riders, and she was excellent for us again today.”

The turning point of Friday’s meet took place in the hunt seat arena, where the Gamecocks put on a flat clinic, winning 4-of-5 points over the Tigers. Kraus completed her 2-for-2 day with a 79.5-69 win over Jennifer Delman to give the Gamecocks a 6-5 lead that Carolina would not relinquish. Senior Adele Norton put the Gamecocks up 7-5 when she edged Auburn’s Ashley Foster, 80.5-80.25. After Auburn won their lone flat point, junior Samantha Smith and Schmidt won back-to-back points to give the Gamecocks a 9-6 lead. Smith posted an 85-81.3 win over Tory Hoft, and Schmidt followed with her 20th career MVP win, knocking off Auburn’s Elizabeth Benson with an event-high score of 87.75.

“Our flat team delivered for us today,” Major said. “This is the kind of performance that group is capable of, so hopefully a strong performance on the road is something they can build on because they really looked sharp.”

Up 9-6, the Tigers tried to make their comeback in reining, winning the event, 3-1. Gamecock senior Layla Choate improved to 3-0 on the season when she knocked off Morgan Burns, 69-67, to give the Gamecocks a 10-6 lead. The Tigers won the next point to cut Carolina’s lead to 10-7, but senior Cody McMillion sealed the Gamecock victory when she held Auburn’s Hailey Munger to a 70-70 tie. With the meet already clinched, the Tigers went on to win the final two points.

South Carolina returns to action on Oct. 31, when the Gamecocks host Texas A&M at One Wood Farm. The Halloween meet will begin at 2 p.m. and admission is free.

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