Auburn has faced these opponents multiple times in recent regular and post-season competitions. Auburn defeated South Carolina and Georgia at last year’s SEC Championship on their way to a National Championship.
The Bulldogs will host Auburn and South Carolina in Bishop, Ga., Friday and Saturday. Auburn went 0–2 against Georgia and 1–1 against South Carolina during the regular season.
Georgia has won three SEC Championships in the tournament’s nine years. Each of the three victories has occurred when the Bulldogs hosted they event.
“When we talk about competing and pushing really hard, these are the teams you have to do it against,” said Auburn coach Greg Williams. “You can’t play to not get beat, because you will. You really got to go out for the win every single ride.”
Junior Western rider Indy Roper has had success against both teams. Last year’s SEC Championship meet against Georgia saw Roper score a 148.5 in reigning.
This season, Roper earned reigning points in the Tigers’ February home defeat to Georgia. Roper also claimed horsemanship victory against South Carolina in Auburn’s victory last October.
“I think collegiate riding is about being mentally prepared,” Roper said. “If you’re mentally prepared you don’t let a horse take you out of the game. I’m just going to work on getting along with all the horses and getting mentally ready to go.
“I think we are all very good riders. If we can mentally go in prepared and know that we can win, the rest will take care of itself.”
Senior All-American hunt seat rider Maggie McAlary is no stranger to the spotlight. McAlary was named MVP for flat in last year’s national championship victory and scored a 175 against Georgia last season.
This season McAlary helped earned points in equitation over fences against Georgia and an MVP award in equitation over fences in a loss against South Carolina.
“I think I know and trust my teammates, and we know that we can beat anyone on those teams,” McAlary said. “On a personal level, I’ve had a good streak at SECs. It’s just about beating your opponent—if you need a 50 to beat a 40 that is all that matters.
“I think it comes down to helping my teammates the best that I can. If I don’t have a good round, there are four other girls that can go in there and I can help them try to win their points.”
Williams will try to help the team keep its cool in the midst of a chance at a championship.
“I think the level of competition moves up—as you often see in other sports when it’s the playoffs or the finals—the intensity does move up,” Williams said. “The one thing that you got to do is control your emotions so you don’t make any mistakes; the horses will feed off that. You can actually cause errors with your horse by being too excited.”
Williams thinks one of the three teams competing this weekend could ride for the national title down the road.
“My money would go on one of these three schools winning the national title this year,” Williams said. “We just want to win the SEC title for the people of Auburn and our athletic department. That is just one of the goals Jay Jacobs sets out for all of the coaches.
“Just the competition alone, you’re really looking at who I would think is going to be the biggest competition for the national title.”