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Sept. 25, 2015

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Gamecock senior Samantha Smith opened the season with a 2-for-2 day against South Dakota State on Friday while also winning her seventh career Most Outstanding Player award.

Five Gamecock riders won their first career points on Friday as No. 2 South Carolina opened the 2015-16 season with a 9-7 win over South Dakota State at the DeHaan Equestrian Center. The Gamecocks are now 1-0 while the Jackrabbits fall to 0-1.

“This was a hard fought win, no question about it,” South Carolina head coach Boo Major said. “We’re happy to be getting out of here with a win over what I think is a very talented South Dakota State team. I think Ellie and her staff have done a tremendous job with their group and I think they’re going to be really good as the season goes on. It was a close for one us, but our flat team dug us out of an early hole and our reining team was able to finish the job. We had a lot of folks competing for the first time today, and most of them won their points which is always a great thing. We’ll have a short week of practice next week as we get ready to face a TCU team that has already proven to be a good road team.”

Friday’s meet began with equitation over fences, where the Gamecocks and Jackrabbits won two points apiece. South Dakota State won the first point of the meet, but Carolina evened the score at 1-1 when freshman Lizzie van der Walde defeated Matilyn Skinner, 84-79, in her first competition as a Gamecock. Redshirt senior Samantha Smith followed with an 84-83 victory over Marielle Golden to give the Gamecocks an early 2-1 lead. South Dakota State won the next point to tie the meet at 2-2, and in the final jumping head-to-head, Gamecock senior Samantha Kraus held South Dakota State’s Blair Wright to a 81-81 tie.

The Jackrabbits extended their lead in horsemanship, winning three points and shutting out the Gamecocks in the process. South Dakota State opened the event by winning back-to-back points to take a 4-2 lead. After Carolina sophomore Megan Overberg and her Jackrabbit opponent Nicole Skiebold tied, 59-59, South Dakota State took a 5-2 lead. South Carolina junior Ashley Reichert held her Jackrabbit opponent to a 72.5-72.5 tie in her first competition as a Gamecock.

Trailing 5-2, the Gamecocks found the most success with their most inexperienced lineup. With three of Carolina’s five equitation on the flat riders making their college debuts Friday, the Gamecocks swept the Jackrabbits, 5-0, with each rider posting scores of 80 or higher. Senior Erin Fry made the most of her debut Friday, edging South Dakota State’s Taylor Duerr, 82-81. Smith followed by finishing off her 2-for-2 day, knocking off Natalie Howard, 87-82. Sophomore Raleigh Bacharach, in her first competition ride as a Gamecock, beat South Dakota State’s Golden, 80-74. Junior Amelia Vernon joined an elite club on Friday, winning her first career point and first M.O.P. with an 86-83 victory over Alissa Greenwald. Senior hunt seat captain Samantha Kraus capped off the 5-0 sweep with an 87-81 victory over her opponent.

The Gamecocks entered reining leading the Jackrabbits, 7-5, needing two points to clinch the season opener and remain undefeated at South Dakota State. Freshman Bridgett White picked up the first point and gave Carolina an 8-5 when she edged out Morgan Hall, 72.5-72, in her Gamecock debut. The Jackrabbits claimed the next point to cut the Gamecocks lead to 8-6, but sophomore Bailey Walters sealed the victory when she beat South Dakota State’s Nicole Harvey, 67.5-66.5. Senior Sarah Bouchard ended the event by holding her Jackrabbit opponent to a 74.5-74.5 tie.

“The second half was the difference for us, and our flat team and reiners got it done for us today,” Major said. We had four riders alone in the second half of the meet win their first points and I was proud to see us come from behind and hold on to the lead in a tough road environment.”

The Gamecocks return to Blythewood to host a pair of home meets in an eight-day span. South Carolina will host TCU on Friday, Oct. 2, and then the Gamecocks will host Auburn on Friday, Oct. 9. Admission is free to both meets.