Team hopes to find more consistency this weekend
South Carolina will look to claim the inaugural SEC championship as their own this weekend in Auburn, Ala. For a team that was once No. 1 in the country, the Gamecocks have struggled lately, losing two consecutive meets and five in a row on the road.
USC will hope to establish itself as the best team in the league, and although head coach Boo Major said she is disappointed with the team’s 6-6 record, she said the Gamecocks have done some good things this year.
“The Western team has made a ton of accomplishments,” Major said. “The Hunt Seat team hasn’t been as good as I would have liked them to be; however, I think we are still trying to find an identity.”
Sophomore Sam Chiodo has played a big role in the Western team’s success since she stepped on campus. As a freshman, Chiodo compiled an 8-6 record. She has kept up the success this season, going 8-3 in the regular season.
The Mount Pleasant, Mich., native and redshirt junior Johnna Letchworth are tied for the SEC lead in horsemanship wins.
Chiodo said she grew fond of horses when she got a pony. Her mom was involved with horse shows when she was younger, too.
As for her quick success, she said there were similarities between her team back home and the USC team, which helped make it an easy transition.
“I felt really at home here and that really helped,” Chiodo said.
In Chiodo’s first taste of the postseason last year, she went 3-3 and notched her first win in the upset over No. 3 Auburn.
Chiodo said because of the experience, she is more excited than nervous this year.
“(The postseason) is very different from a regular dual meet,” Chiodo said. “You have to keep your mental game there all the time, and going through the experience with my team (last year) really helps me a lot.”
The Gamecocks will start the SEC Championship Friday against Georgia, a team they went 1-1 against in the regular season. If they win, they will compete Saturday against the victor of Texas A&M and host Auburn. If the Gamecocks lose against the Bulldogs, USC goes to the consolation bracket and its hopes for an SEC Championship vanish.
Despite the Gamecock’s late-season struggles, Major said her team is resilient, which she expects will help them this weekend.
“We can go and have a bad weekend and then the next weekend they’re back up and trying very hard to be successful again,” Major said. “Certainly all four of these SEC teams are very, very good and on any given day, one of them can beat the other.”
To level out the playing field, Major said none of the four teams will be allowed to compete on their own horses this weekend.
Both Major and Chiodo said the Western and Hunt Seat teams must play to their abilities to have a chance this weekend.
In only one of USC’s six losses did both teams lose. Because of this, Major said consistency has become a theme for the entire team.
“Several of the competitions (this year) could have gone either way,” Major said. “It’s unfortunate, a loss is a loss, but I think we had the capability to win those competitions.”
Chiodo said the struggles have made the team realize they must keep up the hard work to stay in front of the competition.
“I think our losses have made us stronger as a team because we’ve realized that we aren’t invincible,” Chiodo said. “We can be beat, so we really have to stay on top of our game if we want to come out with an SEC Championship.”