Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Coming off a semifinal appearance at the NCEA Championships last season, the Auburn equestrian team will rely on its 11 seniors and plethora of talented freshmen in its quest for a fourth national championship.

“We are extremely excited about this season,” head coach Greg Williams said. “We have a strong group of returners and we are adding in a bunch of talented freshmen. We have brought in Mary Meneely to the coach the Western girls and I am really excited with what she brings to the table. Our girls have competed well during the summer, and they continue to get better. Auburn is going to be a very strong team.”

The Tigers are led by senior Elizabeth Benson, who was named the SEC’s Equitation over Fences Rider of the Year last season and was named an NCEA First Team All-American in Fences and a Second Team All-American in Flat. The Whitehouse Station, N.J., native posted a 15-2 record in Fences with five MOPs en route to breaking the school record for most career wins in Fences with 39.

Junior Ashley Foster will look to build off her sophomore season in which the Brookeville, Md., native compiled an 11-5-1 record in Fences to earn Second Team All-America honors. Foster was named the NCEA and SEC Equitation over Fences Rider of the Month in November last season after going 4-0 with two MOPs and went 5-1 at the NCEA Championships.

On the Western side, the Tigers are anchored by seniors Griffin Knight and Hannah Loseke and sophomore Alexa Rivard. Knight earned eight wins last season in Horsemanship, the highest total by a returnee, while Loseke added seven wins. Rivard tied for the most wins on the team last season in Reining with 10 and was named to the NCEA All-Championship Team in the event.

Senior Hailey Munger also returns following her nine-win season last year, while senior Allie Dusha will look to improve on her stellar junior campaign. The reigning SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year earned three MOPs last season including two at the SEC Championships.

Coach Williams and staff signed eleven of the nation’s top riders in November, giving Auburn depth in all four events. The Tigers signed six Western Riders in Betsy Brown (Worthington, Ohio), Lauren Diaz (Heath, Ohio), Ali Fratessa (Wheelock, Texas), Blair McFarlin (Franklin, Tenn.), Sarah Miller (Boulder, Colo.) and Megan Rauh (Carmel, Ind.). In Hunt Seat, Auburn signed Ashton Alexander (Ocala, Fla.), Caitlin Boyle (Hampshire, Ill.), Hayley Iannotti (Wellington, Fla.), Alex Ladove (San Diego, Calif.) and Mackenzie Michaels (Orlando, Fla.).

"It is unbelievably talented,” Williams said of his signing class. “What makes our class so special is that this is the largest pool of talent we have ever brought in at one time, so we are really excited. We loaded up, and if you look at the list of signees; every single one can make an immediate impact. There isn't one of that we signed, that can't start in the SEC."

The Tigers will begin the season on September 18 against the UT-Martin Skyhawks in Martin, Tenn.

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