Georgia Equestrian Fall Recap
Anna Sasser

Anna Sasser
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Jan. 27, 2012

ATHENS, Ga. – The University of Georgia equestrian team won each of its final six competitions to finish the fall season with a sterling 6-1 record and ranked third in the nation. Four of the wins came over ranked opponents including No. 1 Auburn and No. 4 South Carolina, with the lone loss came against second-ranked Texas A&M.

“This is proving to be a very strong team,” head coach Meghan Boenig said. “You can see that in the record and poll standings. The early loss was a good inspiration to us. It showed where our weaknesses and strengths were and allowed us to improve on those points as the season went on.”

On the hunt seat side, Georgia owns a 10-3-1 overall record. Georgia is 4-3 in equitation on the flat and 6-0-1 in equitation over fences. As a whole, the hunt seat team has earned 12 MVP honors this season with Carly Anthony leading the way with eight on her way to an undefeated record of 13-0.

“We have outstanding and leadership on our team,” continued Boenig. “Carly is truly an extraordinary student-athlete who is successful both athletically and academically. In addition, we have a large amount of riders who learned a lot from the fall and are really coming into their own.”

“Michelle is our most seasoned rider over fences,” added assistant coach Lisa Anderson. “She is always someone I can count on. We also have a number of young riders who have stepped up this season and shown that they belong in the competition ring.”

The western team finished the fall season with a 8-3-2 record. The reining team proved strong, accumulating a 4-0-2 record, with the horsemanship team finishing with a 4-3 record. The western team has picked up 10 MVP rides by seven different riders. 

“I am very excited where we ended up in the fall season,” assistant coach Mary Meneely said. “The depth of our upperclassmen and the strength of our freshman helped this team grow and become dominant as the season went on. It is encouraging to see the rider excel academically as well as athletically, all while supporting each other as a team.”

After falling on the road to Texas A&M, the team bounced back with a 13-7 win over then-No. 7 Kansas State in its home opener. The Bulldogs swept MVP honors, with senior Michelle Morris taking the honor in both equitation on the flat and equitation over fences with scores of 82 and 91, respectively. Katelyn Van Allen rode to a score of 77.5 for MVP honors in horsemanship, while Becca Haaland was named the reining MVP with a score of 76.

Following the win over Kansas State, the Bulldogs grabbed a 16-4 win over No. 9 TCU, coached by former Georgia assistant coach Logan Fiorentino. Georgia swept the Horned Frogs 10-0 on the English side, with Abby O’Mara and Anthony taking home MVP honors with scores of 85 and 82, respectively. On the Western side, Georgia edged TCU 3-2 in both horsemanship and reining. Haaland picked up her second MVP ride of the year with a score of 78.5 in reining.

Georgia’s winning ways continued against fourth-ranked South Carolina on Nov. 4., when it defeated the Gamecocks 11-9 in Columbia, S.C. Georgia used MVP rides by Megan Hawkins and Anthony to pick up its third win in a row against a ranked opponent. Hawkins scored a MVP ride with a 76-73 win in horsemanship, while Anthony posted a 91 in equitation over fences. With the scored tied at seven, the competition came down to reining. After trailing 1-0, the Bulldogs scored the next three points to seal the win for Georgia. Samantha Belcher put the meet away for Georgia with a 65-63 win.

Holding a 3-1 record and ranked third in the country, Georgia welcomed the first-ranked Auburn Tigers to Bishop, Ga., where the Bulldogs own a dominating 48-1 record. Georgia swept MVP honors for the second time this year, as Anthony took both hunt seat MVP titles and Megan Hawkins and McKenzie Lantz grabbed MVP honors in horsemanship and reining, respectively. Anthony scored an 86 in equitation on the flat and an 88 in equitation over fences, the highest scores in each event. Lantz took the honor with a score of 70.5. Hawkins' MVP score of 78 helped Georgia seal the win. Georgia rode to a 3-2 win on equitation over fences before falling by the same score in equitation on the flat. The Bulldogs used a strong performance in reining to defeat the Tigers 4-1, with winning rides from Haaland, Kelly Truesdell, Belcher and Lantz. Holding a 9-6 lead, Georgia needed a strong showing by the horsemanship team to take the win. Down 2-0, Anna Sasser rode to a draw to keep the win in sight for the Bulldogs. Hawkins’ MVP ride brought the score to 2-1, with one ride remaining. Maria Salazar rode to a draw that allowed Auburn to take the event, but sealed Georgia’s 10-8 win.

Fresh off its thrilling win over Auburn, the Georgia equestrian team traveled to Martin, Tenn., to take on Delaware State and UT-Martin. The Bulldogs earned a decisive 19-1 win over Delaware State, sweeping MVP honors for the third time this season. Anthony continued her dominating junior season, taking home both MVP awards on the hunt seat side for the second straight week with scores of 93 and 83 in equitation over fences and equitation on the flat. Sasser was named the MVP in horsemanship with a score of 73.5. Truesdell rounded out the awards with a score of 73.5 in reining.

Georgia completed the fall season with a 12-6 win over UT-Martin. Anthony and Truesdell each picked up their second MVP honor of the weekend, with Anthony taking home MVP honors in equitation on the flat for the third-straight week and Truesdell repeating her MVP performance in reining. Joining Anthony and Truesdell with a MVP ride was Salazar, who rode to a score of 74.5 in horsemanship.

For her dominating season, Anthony was named the Varsity Equestrian Rider of the Month for November. It was the first time that the award, which is given to the athlete with the most outstanding performances in a month, had been given out. Anthony was also chosen to participate in the 2012 George H. Morris Horsemanship Training Session and the WEF Collegiate Equestrian Challenge.

The riders also enjoyed success outside of Georgia, with several riders taking home top honors in industry events. In September, Kylee Arbuckle, Morris and Anthony each posted top-15 finished as the 2011 Platinum Performance USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Regional Finals. Earlier in the month, Hannah Spiegler and Arbuckle finished in the Top 15 at the ASPCA Maclay Regional Finals. In October, Morgan Justiss won the novice horsemanship title at the 44th All American Quarter Horse Congress and finished fourth in NYATT showmanship and sixth in 16-18 showmanship. Salazar joined Justiss at Congress and was named the Overall High Point Novice Amateur. She also was named the reserve champion in hunt seat equitation. Gillian Chant also competed at Congress, finishing third in trail and sixth in both horsemanship and equitation. In December, Morgan Collins placed ninth at the 2011 National Reining Horse Show Association Futurity in the NAAC Youth14-18 category. Paige Stawicki rounded out the industry competitions for Georgia, winning the Overall Youth High Point at the prestigious 2011 Oklahoma City Holiday Classic. On her way to the High Point title, she won hunter under saddle, showmanship, western riding and horsemanship.

“We have been successful at improving with every competition since we started in September by eliminating our inconsistencies in the ring,” assistant coach Lisa Anderson said. “Our team is so deep with talent that we could easily field two teams that could go out and win week in and week out. Not to be forgotten in our success are the schooling riders who do not compete but are an integral part of our team.”

The spring portion of Georgia’s season will begin Feb. 4, when the Bulldogs welcome South Carolina to Bishop, Ga.

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