AUBURN, Ala. -- The Auburn equestrian team put together a nail-biting victory on the opening day of the 2017 SEC Championship as the No. 2 seed Tigers topped No. 3 seed Texas A&M, 11-9, early Friday at the Auburn University Horse Center.
With the win, the Tigers (9-3) advanced to the SEC final and will take on Georgia at 9 a.m. CT. The championship match was moved to the morning because of possible severe weather tomorrow afternoon. The two teams will ride in a rematch of last year's championship final where Auburn captured its first SEC title with an 11-7 victory.
"Texas A&M is a great team and we knew this was going to be a battle," head coach Greg Williams said. We have to stay lose and be ready for Saturday. I've very proud of this team and proud of coaches. We're happy to move on."
The two teams rode to a 5-5 tie after the first two events. Auburn's Equitation Over Fences crew edged the Aggies with a 3-2 win in the discipline and was led by sophomore Hayley Iannotti's MOP-winning ride. The Wellington, Fla., product picked up her sixth win of the year in Fences, defeating Alex Desiderio, 173-155.
Sophomore Ashton Alexander won her eighth Fences match this season after she topped Kai Devoglaer, 167-146. Classmate Caitlin Boyle earned the team's last point in the event, defeating Haley Webster, 165-152.
In Horsemanship, Auburn was led by junior Kelsey Jung and sophomore Lauren Diaz. Jung earned a pair of 77s from both judges and defeated Avery Ellis, 154-146. Her score of 77 was a career best for the Farmington, Utah, product. Diaz, a sophomore from Heath, Ohio, won her eighth match of the season as she topped Rachel Lucht, 152.5-146.5.
The Tigers saw big rides from their Equitation On The Flat corps as the squad went 4-1 over the Aggies. Senior Ashley Foster garnered MOP honors as she led all student-athletes with a 160, besting Desiderio's 130. Iannotti's 156 points beat Anna Rea's 138, while Alexander earned a 147 for her Flat ride to win. Boyle closed things out with a 157, defeating Maddie Swem's 133.
Auburn held a 9-6 advantage heading into Reining, needing just two points to clinch. TAMU opened with a pair of wins to cut the Tiger lead at 9-8, but junior Alexa Rivard put had a great ride for AU and earned a 142.5 to win her match. Sophomore Betsy Brown sealed the deal for the Tigers, scoring a 143.5 to beat Sarah Kate Grider's 142 and giving Auburn its 11th point of the day.