During its first-ever ECAC North Conference Championship, SUNY New Paltz’s Equestrian Team made history. On Sunday, March 27 they earned the program’s first post-season champion title after defeating both Dartmouth and Sacred Heart University. The team continued to ride the high in Ocala, Florida during the National Collegiate Equestrian Association (NCEA) Nationals after tying No. 1 seed Sweet Briar College in the opening round.
“Getting the opportunity to compete here in Ocala at WEC has been such an amazing experience,” said Coach Helaina Riccardi. She was named the 2022 ECAC Single Discipline North Coach of the Year after bringing the New Paltz program to its first appearance at the Conference Championships.
During its regular season, New Paltz Hawks never defeated the Sweet Briar Vixens in any of their prior matchups, but they almost caused an upset for the top team in the first round. Fifth-year Alanna Ryan, third-year Brynley Smith and third-year Seraphina Morreale, dominated on fences and took a 3-1 lead over the Vixens.
Ryan toyed with Sweet Briar’s second-year Emmy Longest, 196-193, riding Cartoon and Smith defeated first-year Paige Kennedy riding Rico, 228-221. Morreale easily overpowered fourth-year Britt Larson-Jackson’s attempt, 236.5 to 222, as they rode Mabel. It was not a total sweep in the fences event as first-year Katherin Atherton of the Vixens crushed second-year Hawk Devyn Looney with a 39-point surfeit.
SUNY New Paltz then allowed the Sweet Briar Vixens to do what they do best: sneak by and steal the show. The Hawks struggled to take flight in the second half of the matchup, as their opponents mounted a huge comeback in the flat event. Ryan was the only victory in the event as she narrowly defeated third-year Kacie Freeburg, 219-215, on Swank.
The two teams tied up at 4-4, the winner was officially determined by the total raw score. Unfortunately, our equestrian team’s historic 2021-2022 campaign was cut short as Sweet Briar won with 2,951.5 points to the Hawks’ 2,801.
“Words can’t express how proud I am of this team’s resilience throughout all of the changes in our program,” Riccardi reflected with New Paltz’s Athletic Communications Director Monica D’Ippolito. “It was great to see the hard work pay off with this being the closest score against Sweet Briar.”