Women’s arena polo team making a comeback

The university’s women’s arena polo team has been in the shadows in the past two years but has made a strong comeback with this year’s team and players, said new head coach Carrie Whitehouse.

The team started off strong this season, winning its first unofficial match against the University of Texas.

The sport is similar to field hockey, except three people are on a horse with a long mallet trying to keep a ball away from the opposing team, said club team member Sarah Ziomek, a freshman environmental science major.

The club team president, senior communications major Danielle Travis, wrote in an e-mail that the sport is a bit more complex.

“Polo I would say is a combination of all sports combined. Football, baseball, hockey, etc.,” Travis wrote.

She wrote that the game of arena polo is played with three players on each team and lasts four quarters, called chukkers, which last seven and a half minutes. There are two umpires and two goals.

Ziomek said the sport is very physical and players wear shin guards and helmets with face masks for protection from the mallets, the ball and the opposing player’s hands.

“It’s a very physical game…you can get rammed into a wall…you have to wear a helmet with a face mask…or a helmet with some eye protection,” she said.

Alumni Molly Musselman and KC Beal founded the club their freshman year in 2004.

During the first four years, they racked up wins and established a great deal of credibility amongst other polo teams.

Although Whitehouse said the two founders were great players and dedicated to the sport, they didn’t have a desire to keep the polo team active and keep it open for future players.

“Their goal wasn’t to continue the team going. They didn’t have other people that they were recruiting actively or sponsors for the team,” Whitehouse said. “They were students. They were just there to play.”

Bushy Creek Ranch, located in Burleson, is where the women’s varsity and junior varsity polo team practices and plays games.

Whitehouse started coaching this year’s polo team in September after the head instructor at Bushy Creek,Robin Sanchez, suggested it.

“I love coaching…I love horses, and I love polo, and so I had been looking for something to be involved with…she thought it would be a perfect match,” Whitehouse said.

The university’s polo club started with six horses and grew to include 18 by 2008.

Travis is in charge of managing money for the program, recruiting players, managing the horses and is the assistant coach.
Whitehouse and Travis got the team together last fall, she said.

Travis said most of the horses were donated from different people and places to the Bushy Creek polo arena for the university program.

Some of the university’s players had little riding experience and had never played polo before. But the team has turned into an established team that beat Texas Tech a couple weeks ago.

“Some of our starters this year have a very weak riding background…now, within four months, (they’re) playing fantastically well,” Whitehouse said.

The players for this year’s women polo team are strong and committed to their horses, their teammates and the sport, she said. The team has come a long way since practice started in September and will be strong competitors in the SouthWest Region, she said.