K-State Equestrian Starts Strong in 2014

After upsetting No. 2 South Carolina, 10-8, at Timbercreek Stables last Friday evening, the Wildcats will be back in action at home today and tomorrow as the team is set to host matches against No. 9 New Mexico State and South Dakota State.
"Going against the No. 2 team, that was pressure right from the get-go," said K-State equestrian head coach Casie Maxwell after last week's win. "We didn't really chalk up South Carolina to be as good as they really are, we looked at it like just another competition and that's how the team treated it. They had great recovery from error, and that's essentially what got us out with the win."
With today's home meet against New Mexico State set to begin at 2:30 p.m., and tomorrow's meet against South Dakota State beginning at 9 a.m., K-State has high hopes to continue success in its home arena. Friday evening's win over South Carolina marked the Wildcats 12th-consecutive home win, a streak dating back two years to Sept. 29, 2012.
"(Home meets) give us a chance to get in our element, relax and be at home and not have to worry about the stress about being on the road," explained junior Nicholle Hatton. "We can take one step back and be like, 'OK, these are our horses, we know them.' We can have that extra confidence in ourselves."
One of the Wildcats' 38 underclassmen, Hatton earned her first-ever Most Outstanding Performer (MOP) honor for her stellar reining performance against South Carolina. Defeating South Carolina's Cody McMillon, 75.0-70.5, not only was it Hatton's first career MOP honor, but last week's meet was Hatton's first-ever meet competing with the K-State equestrian varsity squad.
"I was stoked," Hatton said. "It was so cool. I never thought I would get one in my first meet, I thought that it would take a while to get there, but it's really exciting.  I think I went out there and rode very well. I was very methodical about it. I do have a few things to work on, so now I've just got to get ready for (New Mexico State)."
A native of Parker, Colorado, Hatton came to K-State in 2012. After redshirting her freshman year, she spent time last season competing as an exhibition rider. Now competing with the varsity squad, her future with the team is looking bright.
"She's worked hard," Maxwell said about Hatton. "She redshirted her first year and did some exhibition riding last year, so she's had the opportunity to get in the pen, shake off her nerves and get over some mistakes. She's definitely worked hard to get here. She deserved it."
Counting Hatton's victory, six of the Wildcats' 10 total points against South Carolina were scored by underclassmen. The Wildcats' freshmen and sophomores stepped up last week and proved essential players for the team. 
This year's roster makes up one of the youngest teams Maxwell has coached during her six years at K-State. Thirty-eight of the team's 49 riders are freshmen or sophomores, and few of those 38 have much varsity riding experience. However, watching the team ride to its victory on Friday evening, you'd never know it was so full of youth.
"I don't know that we were really surprised, but I don't know that we really had an expectation coming into this," Maxwell said about her young roster after the South Carolina win. "This was going to be a really big feeler for us to see where we were and to see what we need to work on, but I would say they definitely stepped it up. They didn't let the pressure or the atmosphere get to them. They just took it like another day and that's why they did so well."
Along with Hatton, K-State sophomore Henley Adkins also earned an MOP honor for her performance in Equitation on the Flat.
"She's clutch, let's just put it that way, she really is," said Maxwell about her top performer. "You can count on her. She's always the last rider of the day. Nobody told her she needed to (get the point to win it), but she probably knew she was either going to win it or tie it. She just does her thing every single time. You can always count on her consistency.
Going into Adkins' performance, K-State was up 9-8 on South Carolina prior to the final ride of the day. It came down to Adkins to win it, and that's exactly what she did, beating the Gamecocks' Adele Norton, 87-76.  
"It's the best feeling ever to be recognized for your round and for all the effort that you put in to it," said Adkins after receiving her fifth career MOP honor, "but today, I thought we were awesome. We were strong in every single event, and right away, even from the first demo exhibition, we were right on it and we kept it all the way though."
With four more home meets on its fall schedule, including today's meet against New Mexico State and tomorrow's meet against South Dakota State, K-State equestrian is excited for the year to come.
"I think we're just going to keep going up from here," said Adkins. "We're going to take this win and keep moving on. I think we're going to do really well."
With a roster filled with talent and youth, the possibilities for this year's K-State equestrian team are endless - that's a fact already proven with the Wildcats' upset win over South Carolina, the nation's No. 2 team. 
"We just need to take it day by day," concluded Maxwell. "They're very talented, very experienced, they work great together and they put on great competitions. So we have all the factors to be very successful, but we'll just see what happens. They just need to stay calm and take it one meet at a time."
Note: For a full release and more information on this week's equestrian meets, click here
 

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