COLLEGIATE CHAMPS
Westmont men and UVA women take home the trophies.

The culmination of the I/I tournament season is the USPA National Intercollegiate Championships, where the best of the best in college polo meet for a week of top-notch arena polo. All teams play through a series of regular season games, preliminaries and regional tournaments to qualify for this prestigious event. This year's NIC was held April 8-13, at the ERG Arena, home of the Houston Regional Polo Center and Texas A&M polo teams, in Brookshire, Texas.

Offering a player's point of view, Nik Feldman (Cornell '14) shared, "Playing at the 2013 NIC was a special experience. It was an honor competing against friends I have been on the field with since I was 12—competing with and against in the interscholastic—as they took part in their final I/I matches. I will miss them but I know relationships are always long term in our unique polo community."

In the final of the Men's NIC, Colorado State's Jake Brown, Kareem Rosser and Ford MacCarty faced off against a powerhouse Westmont College team of David Samaniego and Patrick and Tony Uretz. In the Women's event, University of Virginia's Izzy Wolf, Vicky Friedrichs and Kylie Sheehan did battle with Cornell's Ali Hoffman, Kailey Eldredge, Anna Winslow and Devin Cox.

Men's NIC

The 90th anniversary of the Men's Intercollegiate kicked off Monday, April 9 with the fourth-seeded Western Regional Champs Westmont College, coached by John Westley, versus fifthseeded wildcard selectee out of the Central region, Southern Methodist University, coached by Tom Goodspeed.

SMU proved deserving of their bid into the NIC, trading goals the first half with Westmont, ending it tied 8-8 at halftime. By the end of the third, SMU was down by one. The start of the fourth chukker saw a quick goal by SMU's Enrique Ituarte, bringing SMU tied once more. The Uretz brothers duo then let loose, and Patrick and Tony went on a shooting spree, firing seven unanswered goals, finishing the game 19-12 and advancing into the National semi-finals.

The first of the men's semi-final games started off with a goal on a Penalty 2 by Colorado State's Jake Brown. It was a game of penalty shots, as Cornell's Nik Feldman kept his team within reach with six goals in the second half, five from Penalty 2s and 3s. It was not quite enough, however, as Brown hammered in nine goals, including five in the last period, to help CSU advance to the final.

The second men's semi-final was a rematch of the 2012 NIC final with the defending National Champions and number one seed the University of Virginia, coached by Lou Lopez, taking on Westmont fresh off its win two days prior. It was no holds barred for Westmont, with the combo of David Samaniego on defense and Patrick Uretz firing off three quick unanswered goals to start what was going to be a fast and furious game. Felipe Viana put UVa on the scoreboard, but Patrick was not finished and added one more to end the first chukker 4-1 in favor of Westmont.

All three players scored for UVa in the second chukker, but Patrick did not relent, adding four more to his name, while brother Tony added another. Westmont ended the half ahead 9-5. Going into the final chukker, UVa was down by four, and another goal by Westmont put them down by five. The Wahoos were not going away without a fight, and UVa rallied with a total of four back-to-back goals by Eduardo Lopez and Viana, bringing them within one. Another field goal from Viana was not enough to offset two Penalty 1s committed by UVa, bringing the final score to 15-13 in favor of the West.

The final was at the ERG arena and it would pit the Central regional champs against the Western regional champs. Both teams had extensive travel schedules throughout the year, traveling coast to coast and everywhere in between to prepare them for this day. In October, these teams met pre-season and CSU was victorious 15-11.

In similar fashion as the semis, Brown got the scoring started with an easy Penalty 2. With the action volleying back and forth, each player scored, and the first chukker ended with CSU on top by one 5-4. The second chukker played out much like the first, ending with the game tied 9-9 at the half.

In the third chukker, Westmont began to pull away, scoring four goals to CSU's one. Patrick Uretz started the fourth with a goal, increasing the lead, but CSU did not fly through a blizzard in April to give up now. Two back-to-back goals and the only two-pointer of the tournament, by Kareem Rosser, brought CSU even at 14- all with minutes to go. Patrick and Kareem traded one more goal each, keeping it tied and the fans on their feet.

With the fans thoroughly enjoying the match, the cheers from the arena could apparently be heard down the road at a neighboring field during an 8-goal practice. The Uretz brothers added one more each, but a Penalty 1 committed by Westmont did not give them much room to relax. Patrick finally sealed the deal with a pair of penalty shots, earning Westmont College its first National Intercollegiate Championship.

Duncan Huyler, I/I committee chairman, watched from the sidelines and said, "The teamwork, sportsmanship and quality of play by the Westmont Warriors was incredible."

All-Star selections were awarded to Patrick Uretz of Westmont, Felipe Viana of UVa, Ford MacCarty of CSU and Tony Uretz of Westmont. The 2013 Connie Upchurch Memorial Sportsmanship award was given to Nik Feldman from Cornell. Texas Tech horses took home the Best Playing String Award and a brand new bridle, while SMU's Menina was awarded Best Playing Pony.

Women's NIC

The women's tournament launched on Tuesday morning, April 10, with the first semi-final game pitting the Northeastern regional champs Cornell, coached by David Eldredge, against the Western regional champs Washington State, coached by Seth Alcott. Rachel Sullivan of WSU was first to make the scoreboard, only to be answered by Kailey Eldredge of Cornell. This was just the start for Cornell, as it went on a tear to end the first chukker 7-2. Devin Cox and Anna Winslow kept up the pressure, hammering in seven unanswered goals in the second to end the half with Cornell leading 14-2. Sullivan added three goals in the second half, combined with two Penalty 1s, while Cornell continued to dominate, ending with Cornell on top 24-7.

The second semi-final saw Isabella Wolf start the UVa women off with the first goal, followed by a goal from teammate Kylie Sheehan. But a turnover of three penalty shots by CSU put the Rams in the lead at the end of the first chukker. UVa outscored CSU 4-1 in the second, putting UVa back on top by two going into the second half. The Wahoos kept up the momentum and finished a solid 15-6, sending the team into the final to defend its national title.

The final had Big Red vs. the Wahoos—a match-up seen often on the national stage. Kailey Eldredge drilled in the first goal within seconds, setting the stage for Cornell, followed quickly by a goal from teammate Ali Hoffman. Vicky Friedrichs of UVa helped settle the team's nerves and got UVa on the scoreboard first. Cornell kept pushing and with two goals from Anna Winslow, it ended the first chukker comfortably ahead 5-1.

Kylie Sheehan came storming back in the second with a pair of field goals and a penalty shot while the team held Cornell to a single goal. It was not enough to bring them as close as they would like, leaving Cornell still in the lead by two goals, 6-4 at the half. Virginia chipped away at its deficit in the third chukker, going into the last period down by just a single goal.

Devin Cox and Anna Winslow added the last of Cornell's goals, putting the Big Red up by three, 9-6. Vicky Friedrichs put Goal 7 on the board, followed by Sheehan to bring UVa within one. A penalty shot awarded to UVa in the last seconds of regulation time proved to be one of the most agonizing moments. Everyone held their breath as Sheehan hit the mark to force a shoot-out.

By the flip of a coin, Cornell went first. Cornell's first player shot, but missed. UVa's player also missed. Cornell's next player shot, but missed. UVa's second player shot and missed. Cornell's last player swung and missed. The last penalty shot went to the remaining UVa player. If she connected, UVa won; if not, a second round of penalty shots would begin. Sheehan, who scored three penalties during the match, rode up to the penalty line. Again, everyone held their breath as Sheehan swung, and watched as the ball rolled into the goal. And with that, for the second year in a row, the University of Virginia took home the USPA Women's National Intercollegiate Title.

The All-Star selections were awarded to Kylie Sheehan of UVa, Kailey Eldredge of Cornell, Isabella Wolf of UVa and Anna Winslow of Cornell. Rachel Sullivan of Washington State was awarded the Connie Upchurch Memorial Sportsmanship award. The Texas A&M ponies took home the Best Playing String accolades and the Women's Best Playing Pony was a tie between Texas A&M's Sunshine, and the University of Texas' Tiva.

The event was hosted by Texas A&M and the Central region at Scott Wood's beautiful ERG Arena in Brookshire, Texas. The horses were graciously provided by Texas A&M, Texas Tech, University of Texas, Southern Methodist University, Prestonwood Polo/TCU, Mike McCleary, Mark Prinsloo, Billy Mudra and Chad Bowman.

The games were officiated by USPA Certified Umpires Matt Syme, Robert Lyn-Kee-Chow and Tom Wisehart. Southwest Circuit Governor Bob McCloskey experienced his first I/I event and was on hand to present the awards to the teams and players. Many thanks to all that helped make the 2013 NIC a success, including Central Regional teams and coaches, Stephanie Massey, Ethan Gallis, Brady Williams, Francis Hinkle, Clyde Waddell, Vaughn Miller and the Houston polo community.

If you missed the games live, videos of the finals are available online on demand.

–– By Amy Wisehart / photos by Frances Hinkle

 

 
 
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