By: Kyle Heck
The first round of the 2016 NCEA National Championship got underway on Thursday, April 14, with four teams advancing out of the first round into the quarterfinals.
The higher seeded team won in all but one of the first-round meets, but it was still an exciting day of equestrian with just one meet decided by more than four points.
No. 5 seed Texas A&M rolled by No. 12 Fresno State for the big win of the day and No. 6 TCU and No. 8 Kansas State joined the Aggies in the quarterfinals. No. 10 SMU was able to bounce defending National Champion South Carolina, the No. 7 seed, to round out the winners on the day.
In the quarterfinals on Friday, April 15, Kansas State will face No. 1 seed Auburn, SMU will take on No. 2 Georgia, TCU will battle against No. 3 Baylor and Texas A&M will tangle with fourth-seeded Oklahoma State.
No. 5 Texas A&M defeats No. 12 Fresno State, 14-2
Texas A&M controlled the meet from the start and was able to pick up the day's biggest win with a 12-point victory over the Bulldogs of Fresno State. For Aggies head coach Tana McKay, the first-round matchup went as well as she had hoped.
"I was really happy with the entire team," McKay said. "They all showed up and rode really well. Really excited about some of the rides that we had. We really couldn't ask for anything more coming into the first day."
The Aggies got off to a great start in Reining, where they swept all four rides. Logan Pluhar edged out Fresno's Sydney Elliott, 134.5-133.5, and Hannah Jechow defeated the Bulldogs' Alysa Frias, 137.5-134. Ashley Dotson scored an event-high 146 to pick up another point over Fresno's Taylor Dixon. Texas A&M's Sarah Kate Grider then picked up a 143-142 victory over Bulldog rider Taylor Brown to complete the sweep in Reining.
Texas A&M would continue to extend its lead in Equitation on the Flat. Hannah Williams started things with a 137-134 victory over Fresno's Kylina Chalack before Marlena Parker picked up a 146-131 victory over Bulldog rider Sierra Swaffar to give the Aggies a 6-0 lead. Fresno State would get its first point of the meet when Paige Pastorino picked up a 133-129 win over Aggie rider Audrey Gallagher.
However, the Aggies would make it 7-1 halfway through when Alex Desiderio used an event-high score of 150 to defeat Fresno's Alexandra Dirickson by 15 points.
Texas A&M also dominated Horsemanship, the next event. Carolyn Day defeated Dixon, 141-139.5, to start things before Avery Ellis' event-high score of 150.5 beat Fresno State's Rachel Williams by six points. The Aggies clinched the event with a 147.5-142 win by Pluhar over Fresno rider Taeya Harle. Brown gave the Bulldogs their only point of the event with a 149.5-142 win over Kaci Fisher.
Texas A&M capped off the win with a flourish, sweeping Equitation over Fences. Rachael Hake breezed by Dirickson, 158-119, Rebekah Chenelle defeated Chalack, 154-147, Desiderio completed her 2-for-2 day with a 152-145 win over Pastorino and Parker's event-high score of 161 was good enough to beat Swaffar by 29 points for her second victory of the day as well.
"We came in very determined and very focused and not taking anything for granted," Parker said.
No. 6 TCU defeats No. 11 New Mexico State, 10-6
The meet got started in the Equitation on the Flat arena, where New Mexico State picked up the first point when Karianna Knezevich defeated TCU's Molly Peddicord, 130-127. Kari Hancock tied the meet at one for TCU when she put up an event-high score of 141 to defeat the Aggies' Remington Willkie by 10 points. New Mexico State would reclaim the lead with a 131-113 victory by Madison Brayman over TCU's Nikki Diamantis. However, the Horned Frogs would make it a split in Equitation on the Flat when Jayme Omand picked up a 127-110 win over New Mexico State's Chelsea Brady.
In Reining, TCU's Meloney Morris defeated Aggie rider Kyla Myers, 138.5-132, and teammate Brooke Boyle notched a 136.5-110.5 win over New Mexico State's Jamie Story to put the Horned Frogs up, 4-2. However, the Aggies would charge right back to tie the meet. Kimmy Ferrante defeated Horned Frog rider Hunter De Jane, 137-134.5, before Haley Newkirk bounced Chantz Stewart to get New Mexico State right back in it.
The Horned Frogs got things going with Equitation over Fences to begin the second half of the meet. Peddicord revenged her earlier loss with a 157-145 win over Brayman before Knezevich completed her 2-for-2 day for New Mexico State with an event-high 162, which knocked off TCU's Carley Barnett by 15 points. However, the Horned Frogs would sweep the final two points when Omand edged Willkie,147-144, and Diamantis defeated Aggie rider Samantha Perlman, 155-145.
TCU extended its lead in Horsemanship. Megan McMullen used an event-high score to get past New Mexico State's Hallie Padilla, 148-144.5, Erin Gillette edged Katlynn Crine, 147-146.5, and Marah Huston pushed by Rianna Storey, 139.5-138.5, to clinch the victory for the Horned Frogs. Morgan Matzdorff salvaged a point for the Aggies when she defeated TCU's Rylee Morgan, 146.5-137.
No. 10 SMU defeats No. 7 South Carolina, 10-6
The Mustangs would strike first in Equitation on the Flat with a 140-123 victory by Nora Gray over South Carolina's Chloe Schmidt. The Gamecocks' Samantha Smith would make it 1-1 with an event-high score of 158 that knocked off SMU's Schaefer Raposa by 12 points. Alex Butterworth would give the Mustangs the lead back with a 138-109 victory over South Carolina rider Samantha Kraus. The Gamecocks' Lizzie van der Walde would make it 2-2 after the first event with a 139-128 victory over Mustang rider Sylvia de Toledo.
SMU was able to pull in front in Reining. The Mustangs' Keagan Snively started things with what would be an event-high score of 137.5, good enough to defeat South Carolina rider Bailey Walters by 11 points. Olivia Pakula would give SMU a two-point lead with a 131-120 win over the Gamecocks' Paisley Roberts. South Carolina's Madison Thiel was able to trim the SMU lead back down to one with a 135.5-132 victory over SMU's Jaclyn White. However, the Mustangs would take a 5-3 lead at the halfway point when Madison Steed defeated Gamecock rider Sarah Bouchard, 131-130.
"I knew I was going to have to go in there and ride aggressively, but not to the point that it was too much," Steed said. "From that point on I just let things roll out the way they were going to."
SMU took control of the meet in the third event, Equitation over Fences. Butterworth knocked off South Carolina's Sydney Smith, 158-125, and Gray picked up her second win of the day, a 158-153 victory over Samantha Smith, to give the Mustangs some breathing room. Kraus got South Carolina another point with a 153-130 win over de
Toledo, but Raposa used an event-high 162 to defeat van der Walde of South Carolina by five points.
The two teams split a pair of points in Horsemanship. SMU's Kelsey Karanges nudged by Gamecock rider Ashley Reichert, 139.5-139, and Michaela Dinger defeated Bailey Mierzejewski, 139.5-130, but South Carolina was able to take the final two points. Abigail Pait and Megan Overberg picked up wins over Hannah McCain and Morgan Redwine, respectively, to close out the meet.
"It was a team effort because we were pretty equal on the point spread that we got on Western and Hunt Seat," SMU head coach Carol Gwin said. "It's always nice to see everybody contributing to the team."
No. 8 Kansas State defeats No. 9 Delaware State, 10-6
With the two teams tied coming out of the first event, Kansas State was able to pick up 3-1 wins in Equitation on the Flat and Horsemanship and that proved to be the difference against the Hornets.
The competition began in the Reining arena and Danielle Kemper got Kansas State off to a good start with a 137-131 victory over the Hornets' Alexis Gratkowski. Brooke Moore would pull Delaware State even with a slim 138.5-137 win over Wildcat rider Brynn Critcher. The Hornets would then pull in front with a 136.5-132 victory by Elizabeth Koons over Kansas State's Kara Guy. Nicholle Hatton would snap the run for the Wildcats with an event-high score of 141, which defeated Delaware State rider Cheyenne Adams by three points.
The Wildcats would then go on a run of their own in Equitation on the Flat. Rory Reichelt knocked off Hornet rider Hayley Anderson by a score of 139-138 before Kansas State's Gretchen Koenen defeated Delaware State's Vanessa Rabito, 139-130, to put Kansas State up by two. The Hornets' Sofia Zingale picked up a 142-115 win against Kansas State opponent Henley Adkins to stop the bleeding a bit. The Wildcats would end Equitation on the Flat with a bang when Christina Martinelli put up an event-high score of 156 to defeat Delaware State's Caroline Schock by 29 points as the Wildcats led, 5-3, at the halfway point.
Kansas State kept up the momentum in the next event, Horsemanship. Paige Kemper picked up a 146.5-144.5 victory over Moore before Danielle Kemper notched her second win of the day with an event-high score of 148, which knocked off Delaware State's Emily Fick by 9.5 points.
"My mindset going in was kind of just keeping an open mind," Danielle Kemper said. "You just have to focus on your one ride you have to do and that's what I did. I was like, 'I had one job today, this is my Reining ride' and then I went off to my Horsemanship ride. I felt really confident going in today overall. I think the whole team was super confident and that's what helped us out today."
Abigail Buckwater would give the Hornets a point back with a 141-136 win over Kansas State's Sydney Anson before the Wildcats would close out the event with a 135-131 victory by Alyssa Lombardi over Gratkowski.
Holding an 8-4 lead going into Equitation over Fences, Kansas State would hold even in the final event. Martinelli capped off her 2-for-2 day with a 142-137 win over Schock while Halle Kutsche defeated Rachel Dantley, 153-148, for Kansas State's two points. Delaware State countered with Anderson's event-high score of 160, which defeated Adkins by 30 points. The other point came from Tiffany Lee, who defeated Wilccat rider Molly Dunn, 142-135.
"We definitely need to clean some things up going into tomorrow, but we rode really well and with a lot of confidence today, which was good to see," Kansas State head coach Casie Maxwell said. "I think heading into tomorrow we just need to focus on eliminating a little bit of the small errors we had today."