The Roger William’s University Men’s Polo Team made historic firsts at the United States Polo Association’s National Intercollegiate Championship (NIC), which took place from April 3-8, 2017 in Santa Barabara, California. The two-year old RWU varsity polo team has achieved significant milestones, beating out top established universities for the Regional Chamlpionship to earn a berth in the national tournament for the first time. As the number two seed, the team received a bye to the semi-final round of the NIC, in which it prevailed over Cornell University to advance to the finals.
The throw-in on Saturday, April 8th, 2017 started the final round of the Championship, with RWU facing another first-time competitor in the NIC, Southern Methodist University (SMU). The action was fast and furious as the closely matched teams vied for control of the arena. An early lead by SMU was reduced to a tie over and over in the first two periods, ending the half with a 6-6 tie.
RWU pulled out a three-goal lead in the third chukker, but during the fourth period an equally determined SMU squad, with the benefit of additional players to sub in throughout the match, chipped away at RWU’s lead and tied the match at 11-all within the last 30 seconds of regulation play. The match went to an overtime penalty shootout, where three players from both teams each get a free hit at goal from the 25 yard line. The two teams remained in lock-step, with one player from each side scoring in the first round, sending the match into double overtime for a second shoot-out. The mounting suspense finally climaxed as RWU’s George Hempt scored the winning goal. Fans in the Santa Barbara arena and at a Watch Party organized on Roger Williams University campus in Bristol, RI erupted with cheers and applause for the victors.
The Roger Williams University team was represented by junior Daymar Rosser, with sophomores Pedro Cabrera and George Hempt, led by coach Ted Torrey from Newport Polo. Team high scorer, George Hempt was named one of four Men’s NIC All-Stars. Another competitor in the tournament’s Women’s Championship games, Leah Torres from the Newport Polo community, was received the Women’s Sportsmanship Award.
On April 6, 2017, the RWU Men (#2 seed) faced arch-rival Cornell University (wild card) in the fourth semi-final of the tournament. The Hawks gained a two goal lead in the first chukker, with the tightly played match ending in a 10-8 win for RWU. Earlier in the day, Southern Methodist University (#3 seed) upset University of Virginia (#1 seed) 12-11 to advance to the finals. This was the first time in the 95-year history of the tournament that RWU and SMU were in the Final, competing for the John R. Townsend Men’s Intercollegiate Polo Trophy, inaugurated in 1922.
Roger Williams University became the first Rhode Island intercollegiate polo team to reach Nationals, securing its spot with a win over its northeast rivals during the USPA Northeast Regional Tournament, held earlier this year at Cornell U.
Newport Polo hosted the Roger Williams Univeristy team practices and home games this season at its private instructional facility in Portsmouth. The team’s coach, Ted Torrey is a Newport Polo instructor for Adult and interscholastic polo lessons.
United States Polo Association (USPA): The United States Polo Association is the official governing body of the sport of polo in the United States. Founded in 1890, the USPA promotes the game of polo and coordinates the activities of its Member Clubs and Registered Players.
Photos courtesy of Elizabeth Hedley, United States Polo Association.