Aggie Equestrian Drops Heartbreaker in NCEA Finals, 11-9

(Source: Rachel Mahan/Texas A&M Athletics)

By: Tyler Pounds, Athletics Communications

OCALA, Fla. – The No. 3 Texas A&M equestrian team (14-5) fell to No. 1 Oklahoma State (15-2), 11-9, in the National Collegiate Equestrian Association Championship final Saturday afternoon at the World Equestrian Center.

Texas A&M took an early 3-2 lead after Reining. Seniors Lisa Bricker and Marissa Harrell and junior Emmy-Lu Marsh each scored points. Harrell led the group registering a team-high 217.5 with Snoop Dog beating Molly Mitchell’s 209.5. Marsh defeated Stephanie Helsen, 213-204.5, while Bricker bested Hannah Lovrien, 211.5-209, on a reride with Slash.

The Cowgirls answered back winning Flat, 3-2. Junior Kaitlyn Lovingfoss and sophomore Devon Thomas scored points for the Aggies. Lovingfoss bested Grace McReynolds, 239.5-231, on Mo, while Thomas outscored Grace McReynolds, 253-219.5, with Chippy.

Knotted at five at the break, the momentum stayed with Oklahoma State as the Aggies lost Horsemanship, 3-2. Senior Hayley Riddle and junior Cori Cansdale earned points for the Maroon & White. Riddle defeated Caroline Nielson, 226.5-207, on Flash, and Cansdale edged Natalie Vargo, 225.5-221.5, with Austin.

Heading to the final stanza trailing, 8-7, Texas A&M pressured the Cowgirls before ultimately falling in Fences, 3-2. Junior Morgan Rosia beat Abigail Brayman, 236-234, with Chico, and Thomas outperformed Hope King, 263-251, with Teddy.

The NCEA runner-up finish marks the fifth in Texas A&M history. Marsh, Harrell and Riddle earned All-NCEA Reining Championship team honors, while Cansdale and MacKenzie Chapman earned All-NCEA Horsemanship accolades. Thomas and Rosia were named to the All-NCEA Fences Team, while Nicole Leonard and Lovingfoss earned All-NCEA Flat Team honors.

Lovingfoss won the Elite Equestrian award, which is given to the rider with the highest GPA of the last four remaining teams. Lovingfoss garners a perfect 4.0 GPA and is majoring in Political Science.

Texas A&M Quotes
Head Coach Tana McKay

On the close meet…
“It’s a long week and long three days of competition and we couldn’t be more proud of the way the girls performed. They’ve been mentally tough for three solid days. We knew Oklahoma State was going to be tough and ending it in a tight competition, they need to still hold their heads high because they rode well and left it all out in the arena.”

On the senior class…
“They’re a tough class. The biggest thing to me is their leadership. Nobody on this team has been put in this position, being at a national championship final. It takes a lot of guts and mental toughness. All the seniors were there for everybody in keeping everyone in the right frame of mind. I’m very proud of them. It’s disappointing we couldn’t give them what they deserve going out but they need to be proud, this is a big accomplishment.”

Jumping Seat Coach Abby O’Mara
On the final coming down to the Fences…
“I was really happy with all of the Fences performances. We knew going into Fences that we were going to have to win, 3-2. All week, Fences has been strong winning, 4-1, each previous day. We were confident and the girls put in extremely strong rides today, but came up short in just a couple.”

Senior Nicole Leonard
On the support from the 12th Man…
“My fiancée and two other girls’ boyfriends came out and they were our Yell Leaders, they were incredible and got everyone pumped up. We have an amazing amount of support from parents that are always there supporting us and we wouldn’t be able to do it without their support. There is the spirit of the 12th Man and our parents carried it.”

Junior Cori Cansdale
On the senior group and team…
“We have a great senior group. All the girls back in the barn taking care of the horses, we know that everything is in great hands. All the girls hyping us up on meet day, we know they have our backs. Having Hayley [Riddle] and MacKenzie [Chapman] start for Horsemanship, we know they are going to go in there and kill it. They’re the best people to talk over the pattern with and they’re always super supportive. This team has just been a family and I’m so proud of how everyone rode and how close everyone has grown together”