National Intercollegiate Polo Championship Hosted by University of Connecticut
Posted on April 10, 2015
Article & Photos by Jacqueline Bennett newsandviewsjb.com
Like a flash of lightning, six competitors – three on each team – atop muscular horses, mallots in hand chased a small white ball inside Horsebarn Hill Arena Thursday night. The University of Connecticut Women’s Polo Team took on Cornell April 9, during the National Intercollegiate Championship being held in Storrs, CT from April 6-11.
Fervor inside the arena replaced the pre-match calmness of horse walking to ready the athletes for competition only moments before. A pattern of stillness followed by speed and swiftness repeated itself throughout the match which consisted of “chukkers” or periods. Meanwhile, the home crowd shouted from the stands, UCONN – HUSKIES!
“I like the intensity, the fast pace,” UConn Polo Team member Audriana Finney, an alternate for the semi-final championship match, said during a break between chukkers.
The polo team women are surprisingly petite yet these talented equestrians handled the massive animals with aplomb. In fact, UConn Women’s Polo can give ten-time national champions UConn Women’s Basketball a run for their money when it comes to national title-holding. The polo women have won seven national titles, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008. UConn Men’s Polo has not done too shabbily either, having won three national titles but it’s been awhile for the guys – who last earned their titles in 1972, 1973 and 1974. As well, in 2011 the men made it to the Final Four and in 2009 both the men and women made the Final Four.
At UConn, polo is a club sport, supported mainly by donations. That explains the front reception area of the Horsebarn Hill Arena on this evening being filled with – yes – bake sale fundraising items. Polo is a notoriously expensive endeavor. Nonetheless, the fifty colleges and universities taking part in intercollegiate competition this season are making it accessible to those not necessarily ‘to the manor born.’ UConn polo ponies are owned and cared for by the Animal Science Department and many were donated by alumni.
Even the arena scoreboard was a donation, given by former “true blue” UConn president and professor Harry J. Hartley. By the way, it was also under Hartley’s watch that UConn returned to its traditional dark blue and white school colors rather than the various lighter shades of blue that had become the norm.
The women’s championship final is scheduled for 10:00 a.m., Saturday, April 11. The men play at 1:00 p.m. To the victors go trophies; the women’s trophy, which includes names of past champions, is currently on display inside the arena.
University of Connecticut, Horsebarn Hill Arena. All matches are open to the public and admission is free.