By: M. Morgan Beavers
March 27, 2014
By: M. Morgan Beavers
The No. 2 University of Georgia equestrian team will compete in the second ever Southeastern Conference Equestrian Championship this weekend in Blythewood, S.C.
The Bulldogs began the 2013 season ranked No. 1 in the National Collegiate Equestrian Association (NCEA) pre-season poll and remained there until falling to Auburn on the road in November for their first season loss. Georgia put up only two additional losses, against Kansas State and South Carolina (USC), ending the regular season 9-3 overall and 4-2 in the SEC.
Though the Bulldogs saw just three losses during the regular season, their No. 1 spot dropped to No. 7 before climbing back to their current No. 2 ranking. After opening the spring season ranked sixth, Georgia put up back-to-back wins against Delaware State and Tennessee-Martin. A loss to USC at home in February landed Georgia at No. 7, its lowest ranking of the year. However a win over Auburn in late February boosted the Bulldogs back to No 3. After a strong spring season, the Bulldogs are now ranked No. 2 in the NCEA poll and hold the second seed for the upcoming SEC championship.
When asked about the loss to USC, junior captain Paige Stawicki said, “We lost by one point. One point in an extremely subjective field is really nothing. Of course it’s always frustrating but also reassuring. Had one point gone the other way, we would be the No. 1 seed. It could really go any way at this point.”
On discussing the team’s spring performance and SEC competition, freshman Meg O’Mara said, ”We rallied this spring semester and have been getting stronger with each meet. Pulling everything together was the ultimate comeback this spring. I am nothing but excited and confident about SECs! I think we are one of the strongest teams in the nation right now and have a solid chance to win the SEC championship.
Equally important as performance in the ring is the camaraderie among the team leading up to SECs. Many riders said the atmosphere and unity of the team was a major contributing factor to the Bulldogs' climbing success in this spring season.
“We really have come together as a whole this spring,” O’Mara continued. “We fight harder and are more united than any other team out there.”
Like O’Mara, senior Anna Sasser agrees that team chemistry is at a season-high.
“We have worked on creating an overwhelmingly dominant atmosphere all year,” said Sasser. “That feeling has become stronger at each meet.”
Stawicki is confident about the team’s momentum going into the SEC championship.
“It’s really anyone’s game at this point, but based on the past few meets and practices, I think we’re sitting right where we want to be going into this competition.”
When asked about what it will take to defeat Auburn and advance to the championship round on Saturday, Sasser said, “I believe determination and motivation are the two biggest factors in determining who advances. It comes down to who wants it the most and who is willing to do whatever it takes to get there. Georgia wants this, and we will get there.”
Sasser said she feels the team is ready to dominate in every discipline and that in order to win the title, it is going to take every individual giving her best ride, saying, “If we do that, we are untouchable.”
The Bulldogs will spend the upcoming week continuing to prepare for competition in Blythewood. They will ride against No. 3 Auburn while No. 1 USC will compete against No. 4 Texas A&M on Friday, March 28. The consolation and championship rounds will take place Saturday, March 29. Following SECs, Georgia will compete for its sixth national title at the NCEA championships in Waco, Texas April 17-19.