BRIDGEWATER, Va. – Riding is still a relatively new sport here at Bridgewater College, but the program consistently ranks among the top teams in the region.
The riding program started in 2000 and under the guidance of coach Sarah Irvine the team became a consistent contender in the region along with perennial power Hollins.
Two years ago the program reached a new level when, in Coach Irvine’s final season, the team won the region and zone championships to qualify as a team for the IHSA National Show. In their first appearance at the national event the Eagles finished with a solid fifth-place team effort.
After Coach Irvine's retirement, Jerry Schurink took over as director of the riding program and the Eagles haven’t missed a beat. A year ago, in Schurink’s first season, the Eagles won the region title. If early show results this season are a good indicator, the BC riders are in prime position to defend their region championship.
In the first show of the IHSA season, the Eagles were reserve champion at the Randolph Show with Taylor Rose earning the reserve high-point rider honor.
This past week, the Eagles won the championship at the Hollins IHSA show and took over the early-season lead in the region point standings. Lauren Casey was the high-point rider at Hollins and Rose was once again the reserve high-point rider.
Casey has three first-place finishes in four rides this season while competing in Novice Over Fences and Intermediate on the Flat.
“Jerry has really pushed me hard this year,” Casey said. “I didn’t even make the team in jumping to start with so I worked really hard to prove that I could do it. Jerry has definitely made me a better rider.”
Casey believes this year’s team has the talent to make a run at returning to the national show.
“I think Jerry has identified the riders who can handle the pressure and he’s developed a very good team this year,” Casey said. “As a senior it’s a dream of mine to help the team get back to the national show. We have some experienced riders, but we all also have some underclassmen stepping up and riding really well.”
Casey points to junior Kayla Deyarmin, a winner in Novice on the Flat at Hollins, as one of those riders. “Kayla always had been in a jumping role and she went to Jerry and told him that she also wanted to work on the flat. She’s been working hard on the flat and this last show she won it. That's stepping up for the team.”
The Eagles will look to pad their lead in the standings on Nov. 3 when they host an IHSA show at the Bridgewater College Equestrian Center.
“I am so excited to get to ride a horse I know,” Casey said of the Nov. 3 show. “When you know the horse, you just feel more comfortable and confident.”
Casey expects the riding program to continue to thrive in the future.
“Our program is really good,” Casey said. “Good riders want to come here.”
The Playoff Picture Update: With just a few games left to play, the conference playoff picture is a bit clearer, but there is still plenty left to settle in the final games of the season.
Let’s start with women’s soccer. If the Eagles win today against Randolph they will clinch the No. 4 seed and will host a first-round playoff game. In the tournament, Bridgewater would open with the winner of today’s contest between Roanoke and Randolph-Macon. If the Eagles lose today, they will be on the road for the first round.
The field hockey team will host a game Saturday in the first round of the conference tournament. The Eagles’ seeding will be determined Wednesday when the Eagles host Washington and Lee. A win gives BC the No. 3 seed while a loss puts the team at No. 4. Bridgewater will play one of the following teams – Roanoke, Eastern Mennonite or Shenandoah. Those three teams are 3-4 with one game left. EMU plays Shenandoah and the winner is in. Roanoke plays second-place Randolph-Macon in its final game.
Also, congratulations to Joan Burleson for being named the ODAC Field Hockey Player of the Week. Joan was part of a solid defensive effort in BC’s 2-1 victory over EMU, a win that ended a 30-year victory drought against the Royals. She also scored the goal in the Eagles 1-0 victory at Sweet Briar.
The men’s soccer standings are still a mess. With just one game left, there are still way too many possible scenarios to sift through. Bridgewater could lose its final game to Shenandoah and still get in the tournament. The Eagles could beat Shenandoah and still be the odd man out. It’s still possible for five teams – Bridgewater, EMU, Guilford, Virginia Wesleyan and Hampden-Sydney to tie for fifth place. If that happens, one team goes home. Good luck trying to figure out the tiebreakers. The Eagles home game with Shenandoah is the final ODAC game of the season. Everyone else plays Tuesday night. The two key games are Hampden-Sydney at Guilford and Washington and Lee at EMU. After tonight’s games, the playoff picture should be a bit clearer for the Eagles.
The volleyball team plays its final conference game Wednesday night when the Eagles host Washington and Lee. If the Eagles win, they will be the No. 2 seed in the ODAC tourney. A BC loss to W&L, coupled with a Virginia Wesleyan loss to first-place Randolph-Macon would create a three-way tie for third place between BC, Virginia Wesleyan and Lynchburg.
Also, congratulations to the football team for their big 31-14 conference victory over W&L. The Eagles will look to build on that victory this Saturday when they host Emory & Henry in the final home game of the season. Bridgewater is still alive in the conference race, but the Eagles will need plenty of help in the final three weeks of the season.
Finally, a reminder that the men’s and women’s cross country teams will compete Saturday at the ODAC Championship Meet at the Peak View Course in Harrisonburg. The men’s race begins at 11 a.m. followed by the women at noon. Both the men and the women should be in the mix to win the team title as well as the individual titles.
First-year runner Kaylee Kubisiak and defending ODAC champion Olivia Mills should be at the front of the pack in the women's race while sophomore Luke Sohl should be running with the leaders in the men's race.