By: Kyle Heck
In the quarterfinals of the 2016 NCEA National Championship on Friday, April 15, the top two seeds cruised into the semifinals with big victories. However, the final two meets on the day provided plenty of excitement and a couple of upsets.
Sixth-seeded TCU beat No. 3 seed Baylor on tiebreaker and No. 5 seed Texas A&M used a late charge to hold off fourth-seeded Oklahoma State.
In the semifinals on Saturday, April 16, No. 1 Auburn will take on No. 5 Texas A&M while on the other side, No. 2 Georgia will do battle with No. 6 TCU. The winners of those two meets will play later in the day for the right to be National Champions.
No. 1 Auburn defeats No. 8 Kansas State, 15-1
The Tigers made a statement right from the start of the meet in Reining. Alexa Rivard started things with a 141-135.5 victory over Kansas State rider Danielle Kemper and Blair McFarlin followed with a 140-0 victory over Kara Guy to set the tone early. Hailey Munger then edged out Kansas State's Brynn Critcher, 136-134, before Auburn's Griffin Knight closed out the 4-0 sweep in Reining with a slim, 141-140.5 victory over the Wildcats' Nicholle Hatton.
Auburn kept rolling in Equitation on the Flat. Ashton Alexander started things with a 137-135 win over Kansas State's Gretchen Koenen before teammate Ashley Foster added a 159-137 victory over Rory Reichelt. Auburn's Caitlin Boyle and Elizabeth Benson, who had an event-high score of 163, defeated Kansas State's Henley Adkins and Christina Martinelli, respectively, completing another sweep for the Tigers as they led, 8-0, at the halfway point.
Lauren Diaz used an event-high score to defeat Kansas State's Sydney Anson, 152.5-144.5, and teammate Hannah Loseke got by Paige Kemper, 151.5-144.5, in Horsemanship to put the Tigers up by a score of 10-0. The Wildcats would get their first point of the day when Alyssa Lombardi beat Auburn's Megan Rauh by a score of 152-150.5. Knight closed out the Horsemanship event for Auburn with a 146-144.5 victory over Kemper for her second win of the day.
Auburn didn't let up in Equitation over Fences, sweeping that event as well. Alexander defeated Martinelli, 155-137, for her second win of the meet before Benson also picked up win No. 2 with a 164-149 win over Adkins. Tiger rider Hayley Iannotti got by Molly Dunn, 154-148, and Boyle capped her 2-for-2 day with an event-high score of 173, defeating Halle Kutsche by six points.
"It was a great win for us today," Auburn head coach Greg Williams said. "The girls came out and rode great. They kind of did what we've been doing all year so we feel pretty good about tomorrow."
No. 2 Georgia defeats No. 10 SMU, 12-4
Georgia used a 7-1 win by the Western team to pull away from SMU for the victory. Leading by two points entering the final event, Horsemanship, the Bulldogs swept the event to clinch the win that sent them on to the semifinals.
"I think this is a very determined team and we took this as an opportunity to go out there and put some great scores down," Georgia head coach Meghan Boenig said. "Very proud of how we finished with that sweep in Horsemanship, but also really proud of a couple of our freshmen like Emma Mandarino and certainly Graysen Stroud in Horsemanship and in Reining."
Georgia's Liza Finsness started Equitation on the Flat with a 151-135 win over SMU's Schaefer Raposa. Nora Gray pulled the Mustangs even with a 146-141 victory over Georgia rider Addyson Cord, but the Bulldogs would take the final two points of the event when Leylan Gleeson defeated Sylvia de Toledo, 155-144, and Meg O'Mara used an event-high score to cruise past Alex Butterworth, 179-145.
The Bulldogs used another 3-1 win in Reining to take control of their meet against the Mustangs. SMU got the first point of the event when Keagan Snively used an event-high score to defeat Georgia's Claudia Spreng, 142.5-133, but Georgia swept the rest of the rides. Lauren Garmon got the ball rolling with a 138.5-135 win over SMU's Jaclyn White before Stroud picked up a 139-134.5 victory over Olivia Pakula and Kyndall Harper finished things by knocking off Mustang rider Madison Steed, 136.5-130, and Georgia led, 6-2, at the halfway point of the meet.
The Bulldogs were able to maintain their lead in Equitation over Fences, despite an improved performance from SMU. De Toledo gave the Mustangs the first point in the event with a 158-110 win over O'Mara. Georgia answered right back when Cord defeated Gray, 143-135. SMU took another point when Butterworth knocked off Finsness by a score of 153-142. Georgia's Mandarino would give the Bulldogs the tie in Equitation over Fences with an event-high score of 166, which beat Raposa by four points. With the split, the Bulldogs would head into Horsemanship with an 8-4 lead over the Mustangs.
Georgia wrapped up the win over SMU in the final event, Horsemanship, as the Bulldogs swept the Mustangs. Bailey Anderson first picked up a win before Stroud defeated Kelsey Karanges, 153.5-148.5, for her second win of the day. Heather Schmidt knocked off White, 142.5-131, and Rachel Kolb beat Michaela Dinger, 147.5-143.5, as the Bulldogs ended the meet in fine fashion.
"Honestly, it was amazing," Stroud said. "It's such a great thing to be a part of this Georgia team and Horsemanship. The girls and I are so close and we're a competitive group and it's a honor to be riding here in nationals. It was just so awesome to get all four points (in Horsemanship)."
No. 6 TCU defeats No. 3 Baylor, 8-8 (tiebreaker)
Trailing by three points with just three rides left to go, TCU won all three remaining points to force a tiebreaker, which the Horned Frogs won over Baylor to advance to the semifinals.
"We knew they could do it and we knew that they wanted to do it," TCU head coach Haley Schoolfield said. "The girls were all in, all day and they've trained for this moment and they've worked hard and they believed in themselves for this moment. It was so great to see it pay off for them."
The Bears would use a strong performance in Equitation on the Flat to take an early lead over TCU. The Horned Frogs were able to take the first point of the day when Molly Peddicord got by Jenny Mitchell, 154-138, but it would be all Baylor from there. Alicia Gasser defeated TCU's Kari Hancock, 150-142, and Savannah Jenkins took down Nikki Diamantis, 145-136, to give the Bears the lead. Rachel Van Allen capped off the event splendidly for Baylor with an event-high score of 159 that defeated TCU rider Jayme Omand by 11 points.
Baylor made it five straight points when it took the first two rides in the next event,
Reining. Ginger Chant scored a 136-132 victory over TCU's Hunter De Jane while Mary Brown pushed past TCU rider Meloney Morris, 141.5-140.5. However, the Horned Frogs were able to snag the last two points to pull back within striking distance at the halfway point. Chantz Stewart took down Baylor's Elizabeth Shank, 138.5-133.5, while Brooke Boyle's event-high score of 142.5 was just enough to get by the Bears' Charlotte Green by 1.5 points.
The two teams split the next event, Equitation over Fences, to stay locked in a close battle. Paige Parker defeated TCU's Carley Barnett, 162-143, and Gasser got by Omand by a count of 159-152 for her second win of the day as those two gave the Bears their two points in the event. TCU got winning rides from Diamantis, whose event-high score of 163 knocked off Brittney Mirkov by 13 points, and Peddicord, who picked up her second win of the day with a 162-157 win over Jenkins.
Trailing, 8-5, after the first point in Horsemanship, TCU made a furious comeback. To start the event, Brown got her second win by slipping by Horned Frog rider Erin Gillette by a score of 151-149. TCU's Marah Huston changed the tide with a 151.5-140 win over Kaylee Mellott. Megan McMullen trimmed the deficit to just one point when her event-high score of 153 defeated Baylor's Abbi Demel by two points. TCU's Rylee Morgan tied the meet at eight points apiece when she squeezed by Baylor rider Bray Bergstrom by a score of 150.5-149. TCU would pick up the victory to move into the semifinals on the aforementioned tiebreaker.
"I felt pretty comfortable on the horse and I thought at that point, I didn't have any room to leave anything behind and I gave it all I had," Morgan said. "It was a cool horse and I'm thankful for the opportunity and glad it worked out."
No. 5 Texas A&M defeats No. 4 Oklahoma State, 11-5
In an old Big-12 rivalry, it was the Aggies who were able to pull off the upset win over the Cowgirls. After Oklahoma State got to within three points in the last event, Texas A&M reeled off three straight victories to seal the deal.
"I was very impressed with the way the girls handled today," Texas A&M head coach Tana McKay said. "I felt like we were pretty consistent from yesterday over to today and that's the name of the game right now, consistency. I felt like that was one of our strong suits today."
The meet started in Reining, where there were four incredibly close rides. The Aggies' Sarah Kate Grider slipped past Oklahoma State's Ebba Lange, 139.5-138.5, to give Texas A&M the early lead. Julia Purus answered back for the Cowgirls when she knocked off Texas A&M's Ashley Dotson, 137-136. The seesaw affair continued when the Aggies' Logan Pluhar edged by Oklahoma State's Justine Peters, 131.5-131.
The Cowgirls' Erin Wiloughby ended the event with a 142.5-138.5 win over Texas A&M rider Hannah Jechow to tie the meet at two points apiece after Reining.
The two teams got a point each to begin Equitation on the Flat, but it was the Aggies who put together two straight quality rides to take the halftime lead. Texas A&M's Hannah Williams started the event with a bang, using a event-high score of 171 to defeat Oklahoma State's Maggie Drysch by 20 points. However, Amy White answered for the Cowgirls, defeating Audrey Gallagher, 127-123, to tie the meet at three points apiece. The Aggies took the 5-3 lead at the halfway point when Alex Desiderio cruised by Jorden Davis, 150-131, and Marlena Parker took care of Kendall Pedico by a score
Texas A&M would build on its lead in the next event, Horsemanship. The Aggies' Avery Ellis got by Oklahoma State's Miranda Reed by a score of 147-144.5 and Carolyn Day defeated Libby Collins, 152-143, to give Texas A&M a four-point cushion. The Cowgirls stopped the bleeding with an event-high score of 154 by Ty Paris, who beat Pluhar by 6.5 points. The Aggies would get back their four-point cushion when Kaci Fisher defeated Oklahoma State rider Paris Nottingham, 149.5-116, and the Aggies led 8-4 heading into the final event.
In Equitation over Fences, Oklahoma State trimmed the Aggies' lead to three points with a 152-150 win by White, her second of the day, over Desiderio. However, Texas A&M would squash any hopes of a comeback by claiming the last three points. Rachael Hake's event-high score of 164 beat Carly Barrick by nine points. Rebekah Chenelle and Parker then defeated Drysch and Davis, respectively, to cap off the victory for Texas A&M.
"I truly thought that we were going to make it this far," Hake said. "We had a really good seat in playing Fresno and OSU and I truly think we can beat (No. 1) Auburn tomorrow too."