By Jeffrey Swindoll
Baylor equestrian’s chance at its second national championship were nixed Saturday after the three-seed South Carolina Gamecocks thwarted Baylor 10-6 in semifinals of the NCEA national championship at the Extraco Events Center in Waco.
“All good things must come to an end,” head coach Ellen White said. “They rode well. Our western riders just made mistakes and they finally caught up to them, and [South Carolina] didn’t make those mistakes. At the end of the day, close doesn’t count. We have to bring it all the way, and that just didn’t happen. We were good, but we just weren’t good enough.”
Baylor fell behind for its second-straight meet, but managed to keep it close enough for a final event with the match win still on the table. South Carolina led 8-6 in the last event and needed only two points to secure a spot in the championship meet. The Gamecocks wasted no time, winning the first two points of the event, and sealing the meet two heats early. South Carolina went on the defeat one-seed Georgia 10-6 to win the national championship on Sunday.
After barely edging out Big 12 rival Oklahoma State in a last gasp 8-8 effort on Thursday’s quarterfinal, decided by a tiebreaker, the Bears had some concerns going into the semifinal against USC.
“[The meet against Oklahoma State] was a nail biter, and I’m so glad we pulled that out,” White said. “The fact that we did it against a strong Western team is pretty phenomenal. We definitely dug ourselves in a hole, we needed every point to make it happen.”
The Bears found themselves down 6-2 at the halfway point of the OSU meet. Baylor scratched out two points, but Oklahoma State extended its lead to four once again. Down 8-4, Baylor needed to score all four remaining points in horsemanship to have even a shot at winning the meet. Senior Gillian Chant, sophomore Lacy Watson, senior Parris Rice and junior Mary Brown claimed the four points Baylor needed in succession.
Against South Carolina, the Bears put themselves in a similar situation to the one against Oklahoma State. Only this time, the Bears were pitted against a much stronger team in South Carolina.
“They’ve had a rough year of trial and testing, so now they’re ready for next year. We’ve got some great freshmen coming in, but unfortunately, we’re losing some wonderful seniors,” White said. “It’s a phenomenal group of seniors and a great group of leadership. But I feel like they have set the bar for our juniors to step up and be leaders too. I’m ready to challenge them to do that and move up to the plate.”