Fresno State's Taylor Dixon

Thursday, April 13, 2017 | by Kyle Heck


After weeks of preparation, the 2017 NCEA Championship presented by the City of Waco and McLennan County finally got underway on Thursday, April 13. Eight teams were in action, but there was room for only four in the quarterfinals.

The day’s action featured a meet that came down to the final ride and a couple of impressive performances from two SEC teams looking to show they are a force to be reckoned with as well. There was also a United Equestrian Conference battle between two extremely talented teams capable of making a long run in the championships.

In the end, Texas A&M, South Carolina, Fresno State and TCU were the teams left standing after Thursday’s action.

(5) Texas A&M 13, (12) Delaware State 2

Facing an upstart Delaware State team that had just won the United Equestrian Conference tournament as a four seed, No. 5 seed Texas A&M was able to avoid being the next upset on the Hornets’ schedule. Texas A&M used a strong Hunt Seat performance to run away with a 13-2 victory over 12th-seeded Delaware State.

The meet started in the Thomas Moore Feed Reining arena, and Delaware State won the first point of the meet. However, it would be all Aggies from there.

Madison Bohman’s event-high score of 143 to defeat Elizabeth Koons set the tone with Texas A&M’s first point of the day, and Haley Franc and Sarah McEntire added wins over Shelbe Jarrett and Monica Ellis, respectively, to give the Aggies a 3-1 lead after the first event of the day.

Texas A&M was able to keep the momentum going in Equitation over Fences with four commanding victories by Rebekah Chenelle, Rachael Hake, Haley Webster and Alex Desiderio. Those performances gave the Aggies a 7-1 lead to work with halfway through the meet.

“Any time you can get that lead, you can take a little bit of a breath,” Texas A&M head coach Tana McKay said. “It was great to see those kids ride so well and be rewarded for their rides.”

In Horsemanship, quality rides by Sarah Orsak and Kaci Fisher gave Texas A&M two more points to make it 9-1. The matchup between Bailey Cook (Texas A&M) and Blayne Bell (Delaware State) ended in a tie, but Abigail Buckwalter’s event-high score of 144.5 to beat A&M’s Avery Ellis gave the Hornets their second point of the meet to conclude Horsemanship.

In the final event, Equitation on the Flat, Texas A&M ended things with a flourish. Desiderio, Anna Rea, Chenelle and Maddie Swem all won their rides to give the Aggies a 4-0 sweep and 13-2 overall win.

Texas A&M won all eight points in Hunt Seat action.

“I thought across the board the girls rode well,” McKay said. “We had a couple of really tough weeks of practice coming off SEC’s, and I felt like they put all that practice to good use. I was really proud of them.”

(6) South Carolina 15, (11) South Dakota State 1

No. 6 seed South Carolina matched up with No. 11 seed South Dakota State in the first round, and the Gamecocks made a statement right out of the gate in Equitation over Fences. A sweep in that event was the start of an all-around impressive performance as the Gamecocks defeated the Jackrabbits, 15-1.

Sydney Smith gave South Carolina its first point with a win over Jacey Chorlton in fences. Lizzie van der Walde, Chloe Schmidt and Madison Sellman won each of their rides as well to make it a sweep in the event. The Gamecocks won all four Equitation over Fences rides by double digits.

Things then shifted to the Thomas Moore Feed Reining arena, where Paisley Roberts defeated South Dakota State’s Nicole Harvey, 139-131, to pick up the first point of the event. Jordan Scott was able to beat Miranda Sullivan to give South Carolina another point, and Caroline Gute’s slim victory over Alicia Johnson made it 7-0 Gamecocks. Mariah Wright was able to put South Dakota State on the board with a 132.5-127 win over South Carolina’s Bailey Walters.

If the performance in Equitation over Fences was impressive for the Gamecocks, they stepped it up even more in Equitation on the Flat. The quartet of Smith, Schmidt, Lauren Fabiano and van der Walde all won their rides by at least 20 points to send the Gamecocks into the final event of the day with an 11-1 lead.

South Carolina capped the day with another sweep in Horsemanship. Bailey Mierzejewski knocked off Jordan Gates, Paige Stopperich squeezed by Kelsey Swainston, Ashley Reichert defeated Victoria Johnson and Thiel beat Nicole Siebold to make it a 15-1 final in South Carolina’s final.

(7) Fresno State 10, (10) New Mexico State 5

In a battle between two UEC foes, No. 7 seed Fresno State used a strong performance in the Thomas Moore Feed Reining arena to help propel itself to a 10-5 win over No. 10 seed New Mexico State. Taylor Brown picked up two wins in the Western arena to help lead her Bulldog team to victory.

It was a back-and-forth affair to begin things in Equitation over Fences. New Mexico State’s Karianna Knezevich defeated Fresno State’s Kylina Chalack for the first point of the day, but Natalie Wendt rebounded with a victory over Samantha Perlman to knot things up at one point apiece. The Aggies were able to take the lead again when Madison Brayman defeated the Bulldogs’ Madelyn Keck. Fresno State made it a 2-2 tie after one event when Alexandra Dirickson edged New Mexico State’s Erica Rosinski.

The Bulldogs were able to create a little bit of separation in the Thomas Moore Feed Reining arena. Shea Gilson defeated Kimmy Ferrante to give Fresno State its first lead of the day. Fresno’s Taylor Dixon and New Mexico State’s Katherine Arnold then rode to a 135.5-135.5 tie. Brown and Paige Barton would make it 5-2 Bulldogs halfway through with wins over Allison Nordvall and Kiley Newkirk, respectively.

In Equitation on the Flat, Remington Willkie brought the Aggies to within two points with a seven-point win over Dirickson to start things. However, wins by Keck and Sierra Swaffar over Knezevich and Grace McMurry, respectively, extended the Fresno State advantage to four points. Brayman ended flat with an event-high score of 175 to defeat Fresno State’s Chalack.

In Horsemanship, Rachel Williams’ win over Morgan Matzdorff clinched the victory for the Bulldogs. Brown then defeated New Mexico State’s Hallie Padilla to make it 9-4 before Haylee Schoonover knocked off Taeya Harle to give the Aggies another point. Dixon wrapped up the win for the Bulldogs with a slim win over Katlynn Crine.

(9) TCU 8, (8) SMU 7

No. 9 seed TCU jumped out to an early lead over No. 8 SMU, but the Horned Frogs had to hold on for dear life before coming away with a slim, 8-7 victory.

TCU started strongly in the Thomas Moore Feed Reining arena, and that’s where half of its points came from. Carly Lombard defeated Olivia Pakula, Carly Montemuro just edged Madison Steed, Brooke Boyle picked up another close win against Keagan Snively and Rylee Morgan wrapped up the sweep with a 135.5-122 win over Jaclyn White.

“We couldn’t have done it without the strong start from our reiners,” TCU head coach Haley Schoolfield said. “That just set the tone for the rest of the day. Going up against SMU to start made it such a great game because they are such great competitors.”

The Mustangs nearly pulled off a sweep of their own in Equitation over Fences. Nora Gray got SMU on the board with a three-point win over Patricia Gill. Vivian Yowan and Sylvia de Toledo knocked off Molly Peddicord and Carley Barnett, respectively, to pull within a point. Jayme Omand was able to preserve the lead for TCU with a one-point victory over SMU’s Alexis Graves.

Over in Horsemanship, Megan McMullen made it 6-3 with a win over the Mustangs’ Morgan Redwine. Michaela Dinger picked up a convincing win over Josie Mootz to pull the Mustangs right back in, and after a tie between SMU’s Ashley Mauney and TCU’s Morgan, Hannah McCain brought the Mustangs to within a point again with a one-point win over Marah Huston.

After Peddicord defeated Gray to open Equitation on the Flat, Yowan and de Toledo picked up two more victories to make it a 7-7 contest with one ride remaining. Knowing a trip to the quarterfinals was on the line, Barnett was able to rebound from her defeat in fences to knock off SMU’s Leina King, 157-142, to hand the Horned Frogs an exhilarating win.

“Carley is a competitor that we feel like we can always count on,” Schoolfield said. “I knew that she could handle the pressure and go out there and put it all on the line, and that’s exactly what she did.”

Competition continues on Friday with the aforementioned quarterfinals. The top four seeds received a bye, and each will take on a winner from Thursday’s action. No. 1 seed Baylor will battle instate foe TCU while No. 4 seed Oklahoma State meets Texas A&M. Third-seeded Auburn takes on SEC rival South Carolina and second-seeded Georgia wraps up the action with a contest against No. 7 seed Fresno State.

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