March 6, 2015
|#3 Baylor (11-3, 4-2 Big 12)
|#1 S. Carolina (9-3, 4-2 SEC)
BLYTHEWOOD, S.C. – No. 1 South Carolina made quick work of third-ranked Baylor on Friday, as the Gamecocks defeated the Bears, 12-6, at One Wood Farm in their final regular season meet. South Carolina’s hunt seat team defeated the Bears, 6-3, while the western team also cruised to a 6-3 win. The Gamecocks never trailed Baylor on Friday.
South Carolina finishes the regular season with a 9-3 record, including a 4-2 record in SEC play. Baylor falls to 11-3 overall, and the Bears will face Auburn on Saturday.
“I’m very proud of our entire team today,” South Carolina head coach Boo Major said. “Not just with the girls that competed, but also the girls that helped us run the meet today. It was a total team effort, and it’s nice to see that much teamwork and effort pay off against a great Baylor team. Baylor had been ranked No. 1 for just about the entire season up until this week, and our girls knew that in order to win, they’d have to be sharp. I thought we were, and I’m just very pleased with what I saw today.”
Friday’s meet began in the jumping ring, where the Gamecocks won 4-of-5 jumping points to take an early 4-1 lead.
Senior Amber Henter, one day after being named SEC Rider of the Month in equitation over fences, won the first point of the meet to to give Carolina an early 1-0 lead. Baylor won the next point to tie the meet at one apiece, and the 1-1 tie was the closest the score ever got on Friday. Senior Katherine Schmidt gave the Gamecocks the lead for good when she defeated Baylor’s Paige Parker, 85-75. Redshirt junior Samantha Smith followed with an 86-84 victory over Savannah Jenkins for the first of her two points on Friday. Senior Alexa Anthony made the most of her return to the lineup on Friday, going 2-for-2 as well, with her first point of the day coming in a 77-70 victory over the Bears’ Brittney Mirkov.
“I thought our jumping team rode lights out today,” Major said. “Coach Dobbs had those girls ready to go and it showed. It’s no secret that Baylor has one of the better jumping teams in the country, but today I thought our girls just rode better and I was happy to see such a great performance out of them.
South Carolina’s reining team followed by winning 3-of-5 points to give the Gamecocks a 7-2 lead at the halfway point of Friday’s meet.
Senior Cody McMillion shined her final home meet as a Gamecock, knocking off Baylor’s Elizabeth Shank, 69.5-67.5. After freshman Paisley Roberts held Baylor rider Michelina Carbone to a 68-68 tie, the Bears won their second point of the meet to the cut the Carolina lead to 5-2. But the Gamecocks got back-to-back wins from junior Sarah Bouchard and senior Layla Choate to give South Carolina a five-point lead at the halfway point. Bouchard, who has now won six points in the Gamecocks’ last seven meets, posted an event-high score 70.5 to beat Baylor’s Mary Brown, 70.5-69. Choate, who’s victory proved to be the meet-clinching point, picked up her third MVP of the season as she defeated Baylor’s Ginger Chant, 70-68.5.
“That’s an area that we’ve seen a lot of growth as the season has gone on,” Major said. “Our reining team has continued to get better as the season has gone along, and that’s credit to the job coach Sorrel has done along with two seniors in Layla and Cody and even Sarah Bouchard. It’s very well-rounded group and they’re doing great right now.”
The Gamecock horsemanship team ended Baylor’s hopes of a comeback, winning the event, 3-2, and putting the meet out of reach.
Sophomore Bailey Mierzejewski won the first horsemanship point on Friday, as she defeated Baylor’s Brown, 78.5-77.5. Baylor won the next two points, but junior Abigail Pait and senior Sam Chiodo won the final two horsemanship points. Pait picked up a 76-70 win over Gillian Chant, and Chiodo picked up her fourth MVP of the year with an event-high 80.5 to beat Baylor’s Charlotte Green by three points.
“Great performance out of our horsemanship team today,” Major said. “With the exception of one, we put up some very strong scores in the horsemanship and that was nice to see against such a good Baylor group. Sam’s having the year that we knew we needed her to have in order for us to be successful, and she’s been a fantastic captain and leader for our horsemanship team.”
In equitation on the flat, the Bears and Gamecocks rode to a 2-2 tie, as Anthony and Smith won their flat points to finish off their perfect 2-for-2 day. Anthony cruised to a 79-68 victory over Baylor’s Mirkov, and Smith edged Rachel Van Allen, 69-67.
“I’ll have to go back and look at some of the scorecards, but I actually thought our flat riders were great today,” Major said. “That’s a veteran lineup that we have on the flat and they’ve been good for us all season long.”
With the regular season now finished, the Gamecocks will take next week off for spring break and then begin preparations for the SEC Championship. South Carolina secured the No. 2 seed for this year’s championship. The Gamecocks will face either Auburn or Texas A&M in the opening round on March 27 in College Station. The Tigers and Aggies will compete on March 14 to determine which team will receive the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds, and the Gamecocks will face the winner of that meet. The loser will be the No. 4 seed and will face No. 1 seed Georgia in the opening around.