#3 Auburn Equestrian Heads to Ocala for National Championship Tournament

The Tigers Will Face #6 Oklahoma State this Thursday in First Round of the Three-Day Tournament 
Auburn Equestrian
Auburn Equestrian / Eric Starling/Auburn Daily

After a challenging season of transition, first year head coach Jessica Braswell has Auburn Equestrian peaking at the right time.Fresh off the sixth-straight SEC title, the Tigers head down to Ocala, Florida for the national championship tournament.

Auburn drastically improved its national standing by closing out the regular season with a dominant home victory over Texas A&M, then sweeping the SEC Tournament with upset wins over Georgia and Texas A&M.

Now Auburn will have to prove it can get those kinds of wins over non-conference opponents.

Auburn’s Faces a Tough Oklahoma State Squad in the First Round 

An increase in parity across the sport has given Auburn a first-round matchup that’s a little tougher than a 3-seed would normally face. Auburn’s opponent is an Oklahoma State bunch that recently earned their fourth-straight Big 12 title by upsetting #1 TCU. Like Auburn, the Cowgirls rallied from a collection of midseason losses with a strong finish that ended in an upset conference victory.

Whenever two champions meet, the winner is typically the team that limits mistakes and capitalizes on what they do best. For Auburn, that would likely entail winning big in Fences and Horsemanship.

The Tigers enjoy the nation’s best Fences team, led by graduate Ava Stearns, senior Ellie Ferrigno, junior Sophee Steckbeck, and freshman Avery Glynn. They’ll face a Cowgirl squad that doesn’t have quite the accolades as Auburn, but clocks in as the fourth-strongest in the tournament.

The Tigers hope Horsemanship will be even more one-sided as senior Madison Parduhn, sophomores Alexia Tordoff and Caroline Fredenburg, and freshmen Alexis Potts and Sydney Swallom form the nation’s second-best Horsemanship squad. Comparatively, Oklahoma State’s Horsemanship lineup is only 6th-best in the nation.

But it’s on the Flat and in Reining where Auburn will face its biggest challenge.

Oklahoma State brings the nation’s second-best Flat roster down to Ocala, where Stearns, Ferrigno, and Glynn will be joined by junior Mary-Grace Segars in their attempts to deny points to the more heralded Cowgirls.

Reining will feature a pair of evenly-matched lineups, with Oklahoma State and Auburn the nation’s 5th and 6th-best respectively. The Tigers will look to seniors Isabella Tesmer and Olivia Marino, and sophomores Alexia Tordoff and Caroline Buchanan for leadership in taking these tightly-contested points.

The Tigers figure to be the stronger team overall, and if they can ride up to that potential, they should grab a close victory and extinguish an Oklahoma State team that has been red-hot recently.

Other Teams to Watch in the Tournament

Should the Tigers advance to the semifinal, recent Tiger nemesis and 2-seed SMU will likely await. The Mustangs are heavily favored over 7-seed South Carolina in the first round. SMU defeated Auburn twice this season, and has beaten the Tigers four of the last five meetings - including in last year’s National Championship Finals.

The nation’s top team, TCU, has stumbled in their past few meets, but was able to hold onto the 1-seed and avoid Auburn’s side of the bracket. The Horned Frogs face a first round match against 8-seed UC Davis, a strong team who recently won the ECAC Tournament.

Familiar SEC foes, 4-seed Texas A&M and 5-seed Georgia also escaped placement on Auburn’s side of the bracket, and will begin the tournament with their first round meet.

How to Follow the Action 

Fans can follow the live action online at the NCEA’s Tournament Central page.

The tournament will be livestreamed through the league’s online partner, Horse & Country. There is a $25 fee to watch the tournament through the “H&C+ Freestyle (Pay Per View)” billing option.

Most teams’ official social media accounts will post live updates throughout the action. Auburn Equestrian’s twitter account is very good at keeping fans informed of the scoring as it happens.

And of course, I’ll be at the tournament giving my own set of updates and analysis. Fans can follow me @AuburnElvis as well.

Want to Learn More About the Sport?

A few years back, I wrote a comprehensive preview that answers the casual fan’s questions about Auburn Equestrian and how the sport works. Check it out for more details.

Auburn Elvis