Wildcats Ride into 2009-10 Season

MANHATTAN, Kan. - After a strong finish to the 2008-09 campaign that was topped off by a fifth place Western finish at the Varsity National Championships, the Kansas State Equestrian team will look towards the 2009-2010 season as a chance to continue to build itself into a national power. The Wildcats, who open the 2009-10 season on October 2 with a home show against TCU, will look towards a large group of returning riders to provide leadership for a team that features a talented newcomer class.

"Starting the season is always exciting as we are evaluating everyone and preparing for the upcoming shows," head coach Casie Lisabeth said. "There is a lot of change happening with Coach Powell joining our staff and such a large freshman class joining our existing talent. Our athletes are working hard and are we are all anxious to see their hard work pay off through successful results in the competition arena."

The team, which lost 14 seniors from a year ago, returns a vast amount of experience and welcomes in a talented recruiting class of 21 new riders, 12 of which will compete in Hunter Seat and 9 in Western. The team also welcomes Associate Head Coach Gardner Powell to the program as she was hired this past summer to lead the Hunter Seat squad.

The Wildcats will look to build upon their fifth place finish in the Western division at the VENC as they continue to solidify themselves a national force in Varsity Equestrian Competitions.

With K-State returning all but two Western and Hunter Seat Riders that competed at the Varsity National Championships last April, there are plenty of reasons to be excited as it begins the 2009-2010 campaign.

WESTERN PREVIEW

K-State's Western team will be led by many returning riders from last season's squad which amassed a 10-6-2 record and finished with a fifth place finish at the VENC. The Wildcats have reason to be optimistic as they look to start the 2009-2010 season.

"This season is especially exciting to me, as my first class enters their senior year and looks to finish their collegiate careers on a high note," Lisabeth added. "On the Western side we only lost one rider who competed for us at Nationals last year, so I look forward to seeing the seasoned talent return and mix with the new recruits to lead us in a very successful season."

The Wildcats will return their top riders in both the horsemanship and the reining categories in Alyssa Freeman and Alecia Zimbelman. Freeman finished last season with the most wins of any Western rider by tallying a 16-5 record on the year, including one MVP award. Freeman became the first Wildcat ever to qualify for both the individual and team competitions at the VENC, where she went 3-1 in team competitions and 1-1 in individual competition. Freeman, who was named a captain for the upcoming season, will look towards 2009-10 as an opportunity to lead the western squad to new heights.

"At this point of our season the amount of dedication and enthusiasm from the members of the team and the coaching staff is exciting," Freeman said. "We have, as a team, set very high goals for this season. We are fully aware of what needs to be done to achieve them and, more importantly, we are already laying the foundation to achieve them. I fully believe in this team's ability to achieve every goal we have set."

Zimbelman burst onto the scene during a stellar sophomore campaign in which she compiled 13 wins and was named MVP three times. She capped off her year by going an impressive 3-1 in the Wildcats run to a fifth place finish at the VENC. As Zimbelman begins her junior year, she will be looked to as a leader in the Western category.

"I have high expectations for our team this year," Zimbelman said. "We have a lot of returners who bring great leadership to all aspects of the team and the new members have brought wonderful enthusiasm and hard work.  With these characteristics I have no doubt that we will be able to accomplish all of the goals that we have set for ourselves."

Senior Laura Browne was named the Western squad's other team captain for the 2009-2010 season. After a strong junior campaign in which she amassed eight wins, Browne will look to take the leadership reins heading into the season.

K-State returns three other senior Western riders with winning records a year ago that will also look to add experience and make an impact this season. Morgan Campbell will look to build upon a season in which she totaled nine wins, as she looks toward her senior campaign. Kaylee Stout amassed 10 wins throughout her junior campaign, including a strong finish during the VENC where she either beat or tied all of her opponents. Tara Hallan went an impressive 9-2 last season, including an undefeated 4-0 run through the VENC.

All of these seniors will be relied heavily upon if the Wildcats are going to live up the high expectations they have set for themselves.  With a little more experience under their belts from a year ago, along with other returners and newcomers added to the mix, the Western squad should be in prime position to compete for a national title this season. 

ENGLISH PREVIEW

The Wildcat Hunter Seat team, under Powell's leadership, will have to look towards a new group of riders to step up and take the leadership reins this season, as they only have one returning letterwinner from last season's 5-12 squad. 

"Our Hunter Seat squad has a lot of depth, and a load of new talent, so I am really confident about this year," Powell said. "Knowing our Western side was so successful behind Coach Lisabeth last season just gives me more motivation.  Our women are riding so well in practice; I can't wait to watch them shine in the show arena.  The squad has shown such enthusiasm and ability, and my terrific assistant coach, Casey Finnell, has helped them all be so prepared behind the scenes."

The lone returning letterwinner is senior Kendall Marvin, who picked up six wins last season. With more experience under her belt this year, she will be looked at to lead the English squad as a team captain this season.

"I have great expectations for this year," Marvin said. "We are strong and focused with good team chemistry going into the season. K-State will be a competitive force within NCAA Varsity Equestrian."

The Wildcats have two other seniors with varsity experience that will look to contribute on a larger scale this season. Katie Mellon went an undefeated 3-0 over fences during her junior campaign, during which she also picked up one MVP award. Bridget Doyle will also look to build upon a season that saw her pick up three wins and two MVP awards.

Junior Jennifer Rawle was named the English squad's other captain for the upcoming season. After a sophomore campaign that saw her amass four wins, as well as a competitor for the National Championships, Rawle will help lead a young and inexperienced team into competitions this fall.

"I am really energized for this year; with the strong leadership of our seniors and the strong drive of this team, I feel that we can accomplish all that we set our minds to and more," Rawle said.

The English team looks to improve upon last season, and with several returners looking to step up and take a leadership role, there are plenty of reasons to be excited about the 2009-2010 season.

"We have a great mix of returning upperclassmen and incoming freshmen talent on the Hunter Seat side this season," Finnell said. "I am so excited to watch this team develop and reach its potential this year.  Coach Powell is coming in with a wealth of experience and I know she's going to bring a lot of great things to the table to help this team succeed.  I am also thrilled to watch our Western riders who return with so much experience.  I know we are all expecting great things from both squads this season, and we are all excited to get started."

And that day is October 2 at Fox Creek Farms as the Wildcats and Horned Frogs of TCU meet in a Varsity completion.