The New Paltz Equestrian Team has just made history. For the first time in the program, the Hawks competed in the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Single Discipline North Conference Championship, defeated their opponents and became champions to earn their first ever post-season title.
On Sunday, March 27, the Hawks took to the stables in Hanover, New Hampshire. New Paltz faced Dartmouth and Sacred Heart University (SHU) in fences and flats and really worked hard to earn their title.
Second-year Devyn Looney said this was the most confident the Hawks had ever gone into a meet.
“The energy was super positive and fun,” Looney said. “We know the ability we have and we knew that the trophy was in our reach so we made sure we rode our best we could those days.”
Against Dartmouth, in fences, New Paltz tied the Big Green in points, but out scored them by 30. Third-year Brynley Smith earned a point for the Hawks, in addition to third-year Seraphina Morreale, riding Torch and Fenway, respectively.
Both teams also tied in flats. The New Paltz scorers were graduate Alanna Ryan on Fenway and Smith on Pie. Luckily, the Hawks outscored Dartmouth again and New Paltz added on a win for the day.
New Paltz truly overpowered SHU. In fences, the Hawks were up 3-1. Looney nabbed a point on Alfie, and Ryan and Morreale scored again, on Ox and Prophet. New Paltz swept flats earning all four points. Ryan, Smith, Morreale and Looney all scored, on Vix, Felix, Babalou and Bond. The final score against SHU was 611.5-538.5, Hawks.
Amazingly, the victories did not end at the postseason title. The Hawks’ Coach, Helaina Ricciardi, received the ECAC Single Discipline North Coach of the Year Award. Additionally, Smith and Looney won the most outstanding player awards for over fences and flats, respectively.
“Receiving an award was a great cherry on top,” Looney said. “The flat section of competition is not normally where I feel the most confident, so being recognized for the highest score of the weekend built me up and will give me more confidence for nationals.”
All their hard work earned New Paltz Equestrian a spot in the 2022 National Collegiate Equestrian Single Discipline Championships in Ocala, Florida. New Paltz is just one of four teams competing for the title, which will take place from April 14-16.
“Finding out we were selected for nationals was absolutely thrilling,” Looney said. “There is so much talent within the single-discipline schools and being selected is a really big deal, especially since we have been the underdogs, records wise. All of us are so excited and counting down the days to be in the ring again.”
The Hawks will first compete against top-seeded Sweet Briar. If they move on, they will take on the winner of a Lynchburg and Sewanee matchup.
“For Sweet Briar, we are definitely going to focus on our flat patterns,” Looney said. “This is where we fell to their mercy last time we saw them and we are going to make sure that doesn’t happen again. I definitely think that there is a fighting chance at bringing home another trophy.”
Before all that excitement, though, the Hawks are taking on Centenary University, Saturday, April 9. Good luck to the equestrian team as they navigate these competitors.