The SUNY New Paltz equestrian team had a busy weekend with the NCEA team competing against Southern Methodist University and University of Tennessee at Martin at the latter’s home facility on Friday, followed by the IHSA team heading to Centenary Equestrian Center on Saturday.
The NCEA team’s first opponent was SMU over fences. The Hawks faced some big scores from the Mustangs and fell, 4-1 with their sole point from fourth-year Madeline Berg. Berg won her point in style, beating her opponent with a score of 84-72 on her horse, Wizard.
“Watching the warm-ups, I was a little uncertain of what kind of a ride Wizard was going to be,” Berg said. “Once I got on Wizard, I was pleasantly surprised to find that he was a push ride which is something that I always prefer. I was confident after our warm up jumps and was able to go in and lay down a solid trip for the team.”
Other scores for SUNY New Paltz were Camryn Dluginski on Dante (73), Katie Knudsen-Brantmeyer on Castello (71), Brynley Smith on Luigi (70), and Dominique Gago on Ace (64).
From there, the Hawks headed into the flat phase where despite good efforts, they lost to the Mustangs 4-0, making the meet total 8-1. Although they did not secure their respective points, there were a few riders that were close to winning their matchup.
Berg on Frappe scored a 74, while her competitor fourth-year Devin Seek scored a 75. Fourth-year Dominique Gago scored a 52 on Jane, while her opponent first-year Addi Piper scored a 53. First-year Brynley Smith tied her opponent, Elizabeth Cordia, on their draw, Honor, with both riders earning a score of 69. Other notable rides were Dluginski on Rose, scoring a 69, and third-year Elizabeth Jacoby on Luigi, scoring a 64.
After SMU, SUNY New Paltz went head to head with the Skyhawks over fences. Although the scores were close for a few rides, UT Martin pulled away with the points, leaving the Hawks trailing 4-1, this time their sole point coming from Smith. Smith won her point on her draw Castello, putting in a nice round on a challenging course.
“It felt amazing to win my point on Castello. It was a tough course against a really great rider from UTM,” Smith said. “The course felt much different in such a big ring with the lines set at a forward pace, we needed to move along, which we were not able to practice at home in the smaller ring, but Castello was the perfect partner to win the point.”
Berg also completed a notable round, scoring a 75 on Samy, but falling to her opponent’s impressive score of an 88. Third-year Katie Knudsen-Brantmeyer was close to her competitor’s score, earning a 69 on her draw Friania, and falling to a score of 72. Dluginski completed her round on Dante with a score of 40, and third-year Elizabeth Jacoby rode Salem to a score of 65.
The Skyhawks shut out SUNY New Paltz on flat going a perfect 5-0. Despite the Hawks’ best efforts and some close scores, they could not overcome the home team. Smith and third-year Camryn Dluginski were four and five points off their opponents’ scores respectively (63-67) and (61-66). The final score for the match was 9-1 UT Martin.
“Overall we were happy with the girls’ performance in both shows against UTM and SMU,” said SUNY New Paltz coach Helaina Ricciardi. “We started off a bit nervous and rusty mostly because it’s been a while since we have shown, but we warmed up and rode much better and more confident in our second show. For the week and a half leading up to Sweet Briar, we will be working on tightening up our flat patterns hoping to raise our scores and put our best foot forward.”
The IHSA team had a day filled with strong competition, bigger class sizes, and some testing elements on the flat. The team finished the day in fourth, with 22 points. Centenary University was the high point team (39), followed by reserve high point team United States Military Academy (26), and third place team Marist College (24). Only four points separated the Hawks from the reserve high point title, an impressive achievement for the small team of eight.
Starting off the day was fourth-year Katie Zacharda in intermediate fences where she put in a clean round on her draw, Houdini, and earned a fourth place out of the nine rider field. Next up for the Hawks, making her debut on the team, third-year transfer Anna Fiore drew Gabun and rode to a fifth place finish in her class of nine riders. Second-year Jillian Kahrs went next drawing Zanga, and she finished sixth in her field of nine.
After fences, the flat portion of the competition got underway. Zacharda headed into intermediate flat on her draw, Big Shot, and after quite a bit of testing, came out third in a class of seven riders. Fiore was next in limit flat on her draw Harmony and finished fourth in a field of seven. The torch was passed to second-year Sara Marriott, who also competed in limit flat on Eli, and finished fifth. Kahrs finished out the limit flat for the Hawks on Leo, and earned an impressive second in her class.
Second-year Brienne Costello got the Hawks rolling again on her draw Mia, where she rode to a fifth place finish in her class. Last to go, second-year Paige Parker won her introductory flat class on Chester, advanced into pre-novice flat, and punched her ticket to regionals. “I’ve only been riding for two years so me qualifying after two seasons is super exciting for me and really rewarding,” Parker said.
“Today I think Katie really stood out. Having drawn the same over fences horse that she had two weeks ago really shows the progress she has made and how she came into today fixing the mistakes and challenges she faced two weeks ago,” said Coach Brooke Nestor. “I think as a whole we all came back stronger and more confident than we were two weeks ago.”
The IHSA team will complete their regular season after their last show on Feb. 29 at Crosswinds Equestrian Center, and the NCEA team will return to Sweet Briar College on March 6.