BISHOP, Ga. -- Top-seeded Auburn and No. 2 Georgia advance to SEC Equestrian Championship finals after wins in semifinals on Friday. Auburn topped No. 4 South Carolina for the third time this season, 11-7. Georgia downed No. 3 Texas A&M for the third time this season with a score of 13-7.
Texas A&M will face South Carolina Saturday at 9:00 a.m. ET in SEC Equestrian Championship Consolation Finals.
"It was good to come away with a win, but I don't think we rode as well as we're capable of," head coach Greg Williams said. "The team feels good about tomorrow and we plan on coming out hard in the championship."
Auburn will compete in the championship match for its first time since 2013. With the win, the Tigers improve to 12-1 overall.
Tied at 7-7 with one event remaining, the Equitation on the Flat crew picked up four wins and a tie to solidify the team win. Senior Elizabeth Benson earned her 13th win of the season with a 176-172 victory over Samantha Kraus. That set a new Auburn season wins record in the event.
The Bulldogs received all four MOP honors by Liza Finsness in Equitation on the Flat, Meg O'Mara in Equitation Over Fences, Heather Schmidt in Horsemanship, and Claudia Spreng in Reining.
"It's very exciting to be competing in the SEC championship round for the third year in a row," Georgia head coach Meghan Boenig said. "We will certainly go in and do video review tonight to look at the little points and places that we can tighten some things up and build on some momentum from today. Winning the four MOPs is fantastic, but we know we are facing a very strong team tomorrow that we need to be error free and at the right peak."
Competition started for Georgia and Texas A&M in Horsemanship, with the Bulldogs dropping a 3-2 decision to the Aggies. Texas A&M's Avery Ellis and Kaci Fisher took the first two points of the event, but Georgia's Bailey Anderson's 147 was enough to top Logan Pluhar's 146.5 to put the Bulldogs on the board. Texas A&M's Carolyn Day took the next point. In the anchor position for Georgia, Schmidt took the final point with an MOP-earning 152.5-148.5 win over Rachel Lucht.
Georgia made up the deficit in Equitation Over Fences, with Texas A&M winning the first point and Georgia taking the last four. Texas A&M's Alex Desiderio topped Madison Newman before O'Mara answered with a 177-162 win over Rachel Hake, which earned her MOP honors. Leylan Gleeson outscored Marlena Parker 163-150 with Finsness grabbing the final point 170-151 over Rebekah Chenelle.
After two events, Georgia led Texas A&M 6-4.
Georgia dropped the first point in Equitation on the Flat before picking up the next two. Georgia's Finsness earned MOP honors in her defeat of Texas A&M's Parker 171-155 before Newman topped Hannah Williams 140-130. Texas A&M grabbed another point before O'Mara closed out the event with a 174-165 victory over Audrey Gallagher. Georgia led Texas A&M 9-6 with only Reining remaining.
The Reining team defeated Texas A&M 4-1 to clinch Georgia's spot in the championship round. Georgia and Texas A&M split the first two points. Kyndall Harper defeated Jaci Marley 134-132.5 before Texas A&M's Pluhar edged Lindsey Cheek 136-133.5. Georgia's Spreng rode to an MOP-earning 136-134.5 defeat over Ashley Dotson before Lauren Garmon took the win over Sarah Kate Grider 136.5-135.5. Graysen Stroud won the final point of the day edging Texas A&M's Hannah Jachow 132.5-132.
For Auburn and South Carolina, the day opened with a 3-2 win in Equitation over Fences. Auburn was led by a trio of freshmen in the event as Caitlin Boyle, Hayley Iannotti and Ashton Alexander each came away with a victory. Boyle topped Samantha Smith, 174-164, while Iannotti came away with a 165-160 win over Samantha Kraus. Alexander finished the event with a 166-153 victory over Schmidt. With their wins, Iannotti and Boyle upped their season total to a team-best 12.
Tiger freshmen Lauren Diaz and Megan Rauh earned a pair of wins for Auburn in Horsemanship. Diaz picked up her eighth win of the year as she defeated South Carolina's Courtney Allen, 145.5-132, while Rauh edged Bailey Mierzejewski, 147.5-145.5. Auburn and South Carolina went into intermission tied 5-5.
"The freshmen have been unreal all year," Williams said. "We have a really strong group of underclassmen so the future is great for Auburn equestrian. I'm so proud of the way they performed in a high-pressure situation today."
Each team picked up a pair of wins in Reining to finish three events tied at 7-7. Senior Allie Dusha opened with a 140-135 victory over Bridgett White. Freshman Blair McFarlin closed out the event with a 136.5-132 win over Sarah Bouchard. Senior Hailey Munger picked up a tie in her match as she and Gamecock Paisley Roberts each finished with a 135.