ALFRED — No polo team at Alfred State College?
That simply wasn’t acceptable for longtime players Anna Campbell and Kasandra Wohlschlegel, who enrolled last year.
“Kasandra and I had been polo players since we were 10 years old,” said Campbell, a junior from Geneseo majoring in business technology. “We both played interscholastic polo for the Western New York Polo Club located in Piffard … so we were deeply saddened when we graduated from high school. We thought that after we graduated that would be it, no more polo playing.”
The pair considered attending an institution that offered polo, but they liked Alfred State, Campbell added.
Campbell transferred to Alfred State and Wohlschlegel entered the college as a freshman for the fall semester, and then the pair devised a plan to continue competing in their favorite sport.
“Polo offers friendly aggression between teams, the ability to gallop on horseback, the camaraderie between team members, traveling to different schools to compete; it’s all just thrilling,” Campbell said. “We just couldn’t pass up bringing this sport to Alfred State.”
“Getting an early start and learning about all of the requirements about starting a club, making connections, and getting information was key in getting our club started to quickly,” Campbell continued. “Alfred State was more than gracious. They really embrace students’ passion and are very supportive as long as students are willing to do the work.”
The girls’ hard work paid off.
The pair received approval from the college in November, and the United States Polo Association (USPA) gave them the OK in January. The girls also secured coaches Terry Mehlenbacher and Rob Donnan, who provide the team with horses. The team also received a $2,000 grant from the USPA to cover equipment costs.
“It’s tough to find polo programs, so we’re grateful and thrilled to be able to play the sport that we love while attending Alfred State,” Campbell said.
Still the duo had to recruit others to the team, Campbell said, noting a polo team needs at least three players to complete.
Cue Sarah Burgoon, a veterinary technology student from Westfield, who impressed Campbell and Wohlschlegel, a surveying and geomatics engineering technology major from Honeoye, with her horseback riding skills.
Burgoon, who has ridden horses since she was 4 years old, had never played polo before, but she caught on fast and the results were very positive, Campbell said.
“I met two of my best friends through polo, so I’m pretty ecstatic about that,” Burgoon said. “And it is really nice competing. It’s fun.”
Compiling the team was a challenge, Campbell admits, but she hopes it shows her classmates that anything is possible when you pursue your passion.
“The whole experience, the ups and downs, the hard work, it was all worth it at the end of the day because we’ve been able to play and bring a sport like this to a SUNY school, which people aren’t going to forget about, especially with the season that we’ve had,” Campbell said.
The team plays in the Western New York Polo Club as Alfred State Polo, and quickly made a name for itself by winning the Northeast Intercollegiate Women Preliminary Tournament held Feb. 27 to March 1 at Yale University, where they competed against the University of Massachusetts, the University of Pennsylvania, Brown University, Yale and Harvard University.
“It was unheard of,” Campbell said. “Some programs have been around for years that weren’t even at the level to compete yet. We had just been approved for under two months and we went into this competition and did really well.”
Wohlschlegel agreed the victory at that tournament was unbelievable for the young team.
“The door is open for a new team to do well with this sport. It’s really quite amazing, the little community that polo has,” she said. “We’ve gotten a lot of opportunities to go to big polo games.”
The trio is looking to expand the squad to assure continued success for the program.
“We’re only going to be here for so long (but) we want the program to continue after we graduate,” Wohlschlegel said. “Our hope is to get a varsity and a junior varsity team, so we can help the program grow.”
Campbell is already busy recruiting for next year. She has already encouraged her sister Abigail, a freshman in the construction management program, to join the team in the fall.
“I can’t wait to have a team comprised of four of my best friends,” Campbell said. “If you love horses and are looking for a sport that will not only challenge you, but will enable you to have experiences unlike any other equestrian sport, then polo would be it.”
Students interested can attend tryouts at the beginning of the fall 2015 semester.
(Contact reporter Darlene M. Donohue at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter, @DarleneMDono.)