Gamecocks can’t take advantage of fast start
Through its first four meets of the season, No. 3 South Carolina jumped out to an early lead against its opponents. Against No. 1 Georgia on Friday, the Gamecocks did the same thing, jumping out to a 4-1 lead after the first event.
But this time, the end result was different. After cruising to commanding victories in the first four meets, South Carolina was unable to hold off the Bulldogs, losing a 9-9 tiebreaker.
Georgia outscored the Gamecocks 1,608-1,582.3 to take the victory.
“It’s incredibly disappointing,” junior Amber Henter said. “Just to work so hard and put it all on the line and then to lose in the tiebreaker is discouraging. We’ve put a lot into this and it’s just not the way we want to go out.”
Henter and her equitation over fences teammates got the Gamecocks off to a good start against the Bulldogs. Henter won the first point of the day when she defeated her opponent 81-80. Junior Alexa Anthony won the next point, giving South Carolina the early 2-0 lead.
Coach Boo Major was proud of the way the jumping team began the competition.
“That was kind of the bright spot of the day,” Major said. “Everyone rode extremely well.”
However, the next event saw Georgia pull right back into the contest. They won reining 3-1 over the Gamecocks to pull within 5-4 at the halfway point.
Major said the team was still feeling good at that point, but she still felt a little “troublesome” about the mistakes that were made in reining.
Henter said that they knew the points were going to be close, which made taking the commanding early lead that much more important.
“We were really excited to go 4-1 in jumping because Georgia is a great team,” Henter said. “To come out so strong with really good rides was a really good feeling.”
While Henter said the team can sometimes get too comfortable with a lead, she felt like that wasn’t the case against Georgia. She said the team was fighting throughout the whole event.
For Major, it was the mistakes that eventually cost the Gamecocks the win.
“We had a couple of serious mistakes in reining and equitation on the flat,” Major said. “As a whole, I thought the horsemanship riders rode well, but it just wasn’t our day on the horsemanship side. In my opinion, the horsemanship team is the strongest team we’ve got.”
South Carolina’s hunt seat team defeated the Bulldogs 7-3, but the Western team fell 6-2.
Major said that one could sit there and say that the judges didn’t like the Gamecock’s particular style of riding, but that is not an excuse that she likes to make. She gave the credit to Georgia and pointed out that the Bulldogs did not make the mistakes that the Gamecocks did.
“When you get a good team like Georgia or Auburn, that’s who’s going to win,” Major said. “Sometimes you can play teams that might not be the same caliber (as you) and you can make mistakes and get away with it. But when you’re playing Georgia, you can’t make mistakes like we made.”
Going into the final event of the meet, horsemanship, South Carolina held an 8-6 advantage and needed only two points to win the meet. But Georgia responded with three straight victories to pull ahead 9-8.
Senior Alison Ceresani won the last point of the meet to force the tiebreaker, but Major said she had “an inkling” that the Bulldogs would come out on top because of the disparity in the individual scores throughout the day.
Still, she was proud of the way the Gamecocks fought during a meet that was full of tension.
“Everybody was screaming and yelling for their student-athletes and it was a lot of pressure,” Major said. “(Ceresani) had a ton of pressure on her just to get a tie and she just really put it all out there and had a very impressive ride.”
“Within about five minutes of the event being over, (Georgia) started celebrating so we figured we had lost at that point. It is what it is. There was too much difference in the scores.”