SEALING THE DEAL: Valiente completes U.S. Triple Crown victory

This year’s National Intercollegiate Championship held at Santa Barbara Polo and Racquet Club in Carpinteria, California saw a veteran school team take the women’s division, while for the men, the school earned its first ever championship. The event was held from April 3-8.

Women’s division Regional winners from California Polytechnic State University, Texas A&M University, the University of Connecticut and the University of Virginia, and wildcard Cornell University traveled to sunny Santa Barbara to compete in the 2017 USPA Women’s National Intercollegiate Tournament and vie for the Katydid Farms trophy.

California Polytechnic State University Mustangs and Cornell University Big Red opened the 2017 Women’s National Intercollegiate Championship with a defensive battle. Emma Eldredge scored the lone, first chukker goal off a penalty shot to give Cornell the lead. Eldredge scored again in the second, and teammates Hannah Noyes and Shariah Harris added to the team total, putting Cornell ahead 4-0 at half time.

The Mustangs came out firing in the third chukker with Trista Noland and Maggie Papka scoring back-to-back goals. A tally from Harris and an ace shot from the penalty line by Eldredge extended the Cornell lead again, but a Cal Poly pony goal put the score at 6-3. Cal Poly opened the fourth chukker with three goals, including a rocket Penalty 2 shot from Noland, to tie the game, but Cornell still had some fire power left. Noyes knocked in two more goals to give Cornell the lead and a trip into the semifinal round to defend its 2016 title.

Cornell met the University of Virginia Cavaliers in the first women’s semi-final game, which would prove to be a defensive battle. Back-and-forth play had both teams scoreless until Harris picked up a pass from Eldredge to put Cornell on the board. UVA’s Julia Smith answered with a Penalty 2 just before the horn to even the score. Harris took the ball out of the first bowl in of the second and passed to Eldredge, who knocked it in to regain the lead for Cornell. UVA’s Katie Mitcham tied the game with a nearside neckshot. A 25-yard neckshot from Mary Collins gave the Cavaliers its first lead of the game. Later, Collins scored off another neckshot, ending the chukker 4-2.

Harris closed the gap to one off a Penalty 2 to open the third chukker. A beautiful backshot from Smith to Mitcham, and a heads-up play by Collins resulted in another UVA goal.

Smith exhibited tremendous ball control, evading defenders and increasing the Cavalier lead to three. Eldredge put her team back on the board with a beautiful sweep shot to goal to cut the lead to two. Collins and Smith combined for three more goals

before the horn to take the 10-4 lead. The fourth chukker opened with a classic “walk the dog” by the Cornell team, resulting in a goal from Noyes. A huge Harris backshot set up another Noyes goal to cut the lead to four.

Eldredge was quick out of the lineup to add another tally to Cornell’s total. Eldredge scored again and Harris capitalized on a Penalty 2 to cut the lead to one, but time ran out on the Big Red’s comeback, giving UVA the win and sending it to the Saturday final.

“Today’s game was a very tight game, well played by Cornell,” said UVA coach Lou Lopez after their win. “They (UVA) know what they need to do and they will be coming out hard in the finals.”

The Texas A & M Aggies met the University of Connecticut Huskies in the second semifinal of the women’s tournament. UCONN’s Carly Persano struck first with a beautiful nearside neckshot. Teammate Tessa Kell added a second tally out of a line-up on the 15- yard line that was a result of a ball exiting the arena. Kendall Plank got TAMU on the scoreboard after picking up a Marissa Wells’ backshot. Persano answered with a final goal to end the chukker with UCONN up 3-1.

Wells opened the scoring in the second chukker with a two-point shot to tie the game. Persano put the Huskies back on top with shot that was just shy of two points. A short backshot from Wells set up Ally Vaughn for her first score of the game. Wells found the goal twice to spread the Aggies lead, but Kell found her mark just before the halftime buzzer to cut the lead to one heading into halftime.

Persano put UCONN back up by one with two quick scores to begin the third, but Vaughn tied the game again with a nearside neck shot to goal. TAMU went up by one again with a nearside flip from Plank. Wells added to the total from the penalty line just before the end of the chukker.

In the beginning of the fourth, Plank picked up a score right in front of the goal to increase the TAMU lead to three. Persano pulled UCONN within a goal, but Vaughn popped in another goal to keep the difference at two. Persano aced a shot from the penalty line, but the TAMU defense held for the rest of the chukker, giving TAMU the 11-10 lead and a trip to the championship game. “Today’s game was a very fun one to watch and both teams played well,” said Texas A&M coach Mike McCleary. “The Aggies are going to the finals and it’s going to be a fun day on Saturday.”

On Saturday, April 8, The University of Virginia and Texas A&M University women’s teams mounted up ready to fight for the USPA National Intercollegiate Championship title in a rematch of the 2016 NIC semifinal when Texas A&M narrowly defeated UVA. The rivalry showdown was destined to be a battle from the start.

A Plank-to-Wells nearside combination started the Aggie scoring. Wells struck again on an offside flip shot at a gallop. Defensive skills dominated the rest of the chukker, leaving the score at 2-0 in favor of TAMU.

Determined not to let Texas A&M run away with the trophy, UVA’s Smith retaliated with four consecutive goals in the first three minutes of the second chukker to take the lead 4-2. Wells countered with a strong 40-yard shot down the arena to score, but Smith evaded a scrum of players out of a line up to score her fifth of the chukker. Smith lofted a backshot to Collins, who put the ball dead center on the goal to close out the half 6-3 in favor of the Cavaliers.

Smith capitalized on two penalty conversions early in the third to put UVA ahead by five halfway through the chukker. Texas A&M fought hard for the remainder of the period, playing a strong defensive game in addition to putting one more goal on the board. The chukker ended in favor of UVA, 8-4. Despite trailing by four, Texas A&M was certainly not ready to give up. An unwavering Wells, determined to make up the deficit, picked up her own rebound off of a Penalty 3 and popped it into goal. She then carried the ball down the arena out of the lineup, but was fouled directly in front of goal. Texas A&M was awarded a Penalty 1 which brought it within two. A clash of the two powerhouse players—Smith and Wells—ensued as the clock wound down, each contributing a closing goal for their team to end the game with a final score 9-7.

Smith was the game high-scorer, contributing eight of UVA’s nine total goals, while Wells followed, singlehandedly scoring all seven of Texas A&M’s goals.

“It’s nice to go out with a bang,” said graduating senior Smith. “It’s such an honor to play alongside these girls and win. We worked so hard throughout the entire year, so it’s very nice to see that hard work pays off.”

UVA’s win marks its ninth championship title and fifth under the direction of coach Lou Lopez. “These women were awesome today,” Lopez remarked. “This was a great match from the second the ball was thrown in until the last buzzer. The women fought very, very hard and I’m very proud of them.”

University of Virginia’s Mary Collins, University of Connecticut’s Carly Persano, University of Virginia’s Julia Smith, and Texas A&M’s Marissa Wells were selected to the tournament All-Star team.

Cal Poly’s Leah Torres was chosen as the Sportsmanship Award recipient. Best Playing String was awarded to Julie Empey’s horses, and Best Playing Pony went to Jeff Scheraga’s Pablo.

Horses were also provided by Megan Judge of Central Coast Polo Club in Los Osos, California; South Bay Polo Club’s Francesca Finato; and Stanford University.

Roger Williams wins first title

The men of California Polytechnic State University, Cornell University, Roger Williams University, Southern Methodist University, Texas A&M University, and the University of Virginia made their way to the Pacific Coast to compete in the 2017 USPA Men’s National Intercollegiate Tournament and the right to hoist the John R. Townsend trophy.

California Polytechnic State University Mustangs and Cornell University rode into the arena for the first quarter-final game on Tuesday, April 4. Cornell’s Ignacio Masias struck first, but Cal Poly’s Sayge Ellington- Lawrence tied the game with a score from the penalty line. A pony goal gave Cornell the lead and was followed up with a Masias hat trick. Teammate Lorenzo Masias capped of the first chukker scoring to put his team up 6-1.

Between the Masias brothers and teammate Dan Shaw, the Big Red extended its lead to 14 while holding the Mustangs scoreless in the second chukker. The combination repeated in the third chukker, scoring six goals between them, and the ponies adding another tally. The ponies scored again for Cornell in the fourth before Ellington Lawrence put Cal Poly on the board again with two scores. Lorenzo Masias and teammate Liam Palacios finished out the scoring for Cornell, giving the Big Red a 23-3 win and a trip to the semi-final round.

The second quarter-final game was a re-match of the Central Regional Men’s final, pitting Southern Methodist University against Texas A&M University. SMU put in four unanswered goals to begin the first chukker, with Manuel Ituarte and Max Langlois scoring from the field, and teammate JT Shiverick knocking two in from the penalty line. Christian Aycinena got the Aggies on the board first and teammate Dalton Woodfin was an ace from the penalty line, cutting the SMU lead to two before the horn.

Aycinena, and SMU teammates Langlois and Michael Armour traded four goals between them to keep the spread at two goals to start the second. Aycinena tacked on two unanswered goals to tie the game mid-way through the chukker. The teams split a pair of field goals again to keep the score tied, but the ponies gave SMU the 8-7 lead heading into halftime. Shiverick tacked two more goals onto his team’s tally in the beginning of the third to extend the SMU lead to three. Aycinena notched his seventh score of the game from the field and with a Woodfin penalty score, TAMU pulled within one at the horn.

Woodfin tied the score at the beginning of the fourth and then scored again to give TAMU its first lead of the game, but Shiverick and Armour combined for four goals in the remaining minutes of the fourth chukker, cementing the SMU win.

SMU met the Number 1 seed University of Virginia in the opening semi-final games. Manuel Ituarte kicked off the scoring with a galloping offside scoop shot. UVA’s Felipe Gomez knocked in a penalty conversion and teammate Ali Mobtaker took a ball out of the air and popped it into goal to give UVA the lead. Gomez sank another shot from the penalty line and set up a Merrill Echezarreta goal. Mobtaker added to his team’s total with an end-to-end run to increase the UVA lead to four. With time expiring, Shiverick aced a penalty shot to end the chukker 5-2 in UVA’s favor.

Gomez opened the second chukker with another blazing goal from the penalty line. Shiverick finished off a Penalty 5b play to garner SMU’s third score. SMU’s Ramon de la Torre popped in a goal and set up teammate Michael Armour for another to cut the UVA lead to one. Echezarreta flipped a pass to Gomez for UVA’s seventh goal. Shiverick ended the scoring in the half, picking up his own rebound out of the air, with the score 7-6 in UVA’s favor.

Gomez struck twice from the penalty line to start the second half before Shiverick could tally a penalty score and another from the field to bring his team back within one point. Shiverick tied the game on a penalty rebound and took the lead, 10-9, after controlling the ball out of the lineup and taking it straight to goal. Shiverick capitalized off of a scrum in front of the goal to increase his team’s lead. Gomez aced another shot from the penalty line and Shiverick countered with a penalty score of his own.

The penalty showdown continued with a rocket from the 25-yard line from Gomez to pull UVA back within one goal. SMU’s defense took over for the remaining minutes of the game, leading the Mustangs to a 12-11 win and its first trip to the USPA National Intercollegiate Championship Final.

“Today’s game is testament to the fact that you can arrive with all of your abilities, yet still not be fortunate enough to pull off the win,” SMU coach Tom Goodspeed remarked. “Virginia played an awesome game today, we are lucky to be advancing, and we are happy to be doing so.”

In a re-match of the Northeastern men’s final, Cornell met the regional champion Roger Williams University Hawks to determine the second team advancing to the National final. The first chukker began with back and forth open play. RWU’s George Hempt struck first with a spectacular backhand to goal. Hempt picked up his team’s second goal from the penalty line. Ignacio Masias got Cornell on the board just before the horn to end the chukker 2-1. Shaw tied the game after picking up a Masias backshot and sending a nearside shot to goal. RWU’s Pedro Cabrera regained the lead again and Hempt increased it to two with another penalty conversion. A near two-point shot from Lorenzo Masias pulled the Big Red within one again. Daymar Rosser went end to end with a bouncing ball to keep the Hawk’s lead at two. A long shot from Ignacio Masias ended the scoring in the first half leaving RWU up by a single goal.

In the second half, Saul evened the score at five right out of the first line up. Cabrera picked up a Rosser rebound to give RWU the lead again. Hempt tallied the Hawk’s seventh goal on a quick breakaway from the sidewall. A rocket penalty shot from Ignacio Masias cut the lead to one to end the chukker with RWU holding a slim 7-6 lead.

Hempt struck first in the final chukker, hooking Ignacio Masias, turning and making the shot to goal. Saul finished off an Ignacio Masias run to goal to get Cornell within a single score again. A bank shot off of a Cornell pony by Hempt increased the RWU lead once again, but Ignacio Masias aced a penalty shot to keep the score close. Hempt nailed an offside tail shot to end the game, sending Roger Williams University to the championship game for the first time.

Established in 2014, RWU’s polo program, based out of Bristol, Rhode Island, has rapidly progressed to the upper echelons of college competition in three short years.

“I am so proud of these guys,” said RWU coach Ted Torrey. “They worked hard and we are headed to the finals!”

The week-long championship culminated in the historic final match between Roger Williams University and Southern Methodist University. SMU’s Langlois controlled the opening line-up to strike first, but Hempt countered to tie. Shiverick added to the SMU tally from the penalty line and another quick short shot in front of the goal. Hempt finished off a team wall play and picked up his own penalty shot rebound to cut the Mustang’s lead to one. Langlois flipped the ball into goal on a bouncing pony, but Rosser countered it with a neck shot at the other end of the arena, tying the score at the end of the first chukker.

De la Torre added to SMU’s tally early in the second chukker. Hempt nailed a Penalty 4 conversion between the legs of Shiverick’s horse, but Shiverick controlled the ensuing lineup to reclaim his team’s lead. Hempt placed the ball on the end of Rosser’s mallet for him to tie the game before the halftime bell.

Cabrera went end to end to open the third chukker for RWU, giving the Hawks the lead. Hempt picked up two goals from the field to increase the lead to three. Shiverick converted a penalty shot, but Rosser scored to maintain the RWU lead heading into the final chukker. Shiverick and Cabrera traded goals to begin the fourth. Shiverick aced a Penalty 2 and Langlois picked up a pass from de la Torre to cut the lead to one. With 15 seconds remaining, a boarding call on RWU set up a crucial Penalty 2 for SMU. Shiverick coolly scored to send the game into overtime.

The teams tied in the first round of the shootout, which sent the game into double overtime. In round two, both Rosser and Hempt of RWU converted their penalties while SMU converted a solitary goal, ending the game with a final score 12-11 and giving Roger Williams University its first USPA National Intercollegiate Championship.

Rosser, an Interscholastic National Champion from the renowned Philadelphia-based Work to Ride program was speechless after his win. “It is an honor to be here. I am still taking this moment in. In a couple of hours, I think it will set in that I am a National Intercollegiate Champion!” When asked what he thought about the final games, USPA CEO Duncan Huyler said, “Incredible polo today. This is a fantastic venue and we saw some tremendous sportsmanship.”

Christian Aycinena, George Hempt, Ignacio Masias, and JT Shiverick were selected to the tournament All-Star team. Shiverick was also chosen to receive the Connie Upchurch Memorial Sportsmanship Award. Best Playing String was awarded to Santos Arriola’s horses, and Best Playing Pony went to George Dill’s Jaguar. Horses were also provided by Megan Judge.

By Emiy Dewey




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