BLYTHEWOOD, S.C. - The No. 2 Auburn equestrian team put together a strong showing on the first day of the 2018 SEC Championship, defeating No. 4 Texas A&M, 14-6, in Blythewood, S.C., at One Wood Farm.
"The team never lost their focus," head coach Greg Williams said. "We knew Western was going to ride hard and the Equitation on the Flat crew turned right around and focused on what they could control. It feels really good to be back in the championship match."
Auburn, the No. 2 seed in the tournament, will take on No. 1 Georgia in the SEC Championship for third-straight season. The Bulldogs topped No. 4 seed South Carolina, 16-4,. The title match is slated for 12 p.m. CT Saturday.
Highlighting the day was the dominate performance from the Western side of competition as the group dominated the Aggies, going 9-1 overall.
"Our Western squad have been bringing it week after week in both competition and practice," Williams said. "Looking at our lineup, we just don't have a hole anywhere and it's been fun to rely on that."
The Tigers kicked off with a 4-1 record in Horsemanship, marking the fourth-straight meet where the crew earned four or more points for the team score. Freshman Taylor Searles opened with an impressive 152 to edge Bailey Cook's 151.5. Searles, of Scottsdale, Ariz., was awarded the first MOP honor of her career for her efforts.
Redshirt junior Kelsey Jung and freshman Deanna Green each earned their 10th victory of the season to lead the squad in the event. Jung edged her opponent, 150.5-150, while Green outscored Avery Ellis, 152-149.5. Junior Lauren Diaz capped the first half with a 148.5-141 win over Ashley Davidson.
The Auburn Reining corps swept the Aggies, 5-0, to close out Western's impressive showing. Junior Betsy Brown and senior Alexa Rivard each scored 141 points in their wins to open up the event, while junior Blair McFarlin followed with 142.5.
Freshman Terri-June Granger earned her team-best fifth MOP honor in Reining this season as she bested Haley Franc, 143.5-139. The victory gave the Dothan, Ala., native her team-leading ninth win in 2017-18. Green finished with a 137.5-127 win over Ashton Dunkel.
Auburn saw a dominate performance from the Equitation on the Flat crew, 4-1. Junior Caitlin Boyle secured MOP honors in her 161-160 victory over Rachael Hake. Freshman Taylor St. Jacques bested Alex Desiderio, 165-162, before junior Hayley Iannotti scored an event-best 166 points to record her team-leading 12th victory of the season.
Junior Ashton Alexander went undefeated on the day for Hunt Seat. She defeated Brianna Peddicord, 142-132, in Flat after topping Rhian Murphy, 163-152, in Equitation Over Fences.
The Aggies rode to a 4-1 win in Fences to open the morning.