Maui Polo girls wrap up eventful run at regionals, nationals

Regional victory sends team to nationals, where they make it to semis

Maui polo player Emily Coflin said it “means the world” to represent the sport and her home island at the highest levels.

Coflin and her Maui Polo Club team won the Interscholastic Western Girls Regional at the U.S. Polo Association Tournament in California last month, which qualified them for the USPA Intercollegiate / Interscholastic Polo Nationals, held earlier this month in Texas.

Maui Polo Club fell in the semifinal round against eventual champion Aikan Youth Polo, but it was still “an all-around super, super cool experience,”Coflin said. 

“It means the world to go up there, especially since we are so small and polo isn’t super big here,” the 16-year-old home-schooled student from Makawao said. “It’s such an amazing experience to, you know, go and get off the rock and go up to California first, and go to regionals and compete against some really good people, and then go to nationals and go on these super nice horses.”

Coflin was joined on the varsity girls team at regionals by Leah Melzer, a King Kekaulike student from Makawao, and Jade Hiltbrand of Oahu. Seabury Hall’s Elizabeth Miranda of Makawao joined the Maui team at nationals. 

Leah Melzer, Emily Coflin and Jade Hiltbrand sit atop their horses during the Interscholastic Western Girls Regional at the U.S. Polo Association Tournament. Violet Hiltbrand photo

Maui’s junior varsity squad, which fell in the first round at regionals, included Indiana Dukes, Elise Hollingsworth Chloe Fischer and Campbell Bintliff. 

“It definitely was a good experience, like, you don’t get too many opportunities like that in many places and I’m so happy that we made it to nationals,” Melzer said. “This year the competition was definitely higher — the games and the opponents were a lot more difficult.”

Maui Polo Club, which has operated since 1888, practices weekly at the Makawao-based arenas under the direction of 30-year veteran coach Herman-Louis Decoite. 

“Even though Maui is a small polo club, there can be some really good players that come out of it thanks to our coach,” Melzer said. “He’s coached a lot of good teams with a lot of good players, so to be one of those teams and hopefully one day we can win nationals, which would be really nice.”

Melzer, who’s been playing polo since she was 5 years old, said the stormy weather on the Valley Isle last month made it challenging to get training days in, so she’s proud of how her “awesome and amazing team” did at the tournaments on the Mainland. 

Maui Polo Club coach Herman-Louis Decoite (from left) and players Leah Melzer, Emily Coflin and Jade Hiltbrand pose with their Interscholastic Western Girls Regional trophies at the U.S. Polo Association Tournament in February. Rebecca Melzer photo

“My team is, like, so amazing,” Coflin added. “Just going up to nationals, they’re all like my best friends, so it’s just so fun being able to do something we all love and doing it all together.”

Maui Polo Club did not travel with their horses, so teams rode the tournament’s horses. Coflin said players only get a few minutes to get comfortable with them. 

“You kind of have to go with what you got,” she said with a laugh. “At regionals, I got this one horse, he was just, like, so anxious and super difficult to do anything on, so he was just spinning in circles and going sideways, but you kind of just have to go with it and hang on.”

At the regional tournament, where the Maui Polo girls had a close 10-9 win over Lakeside in San Diego, Melzer and Coflin received All-Star Awards, which are voted on by the participating teams. 

“It means a lot,” Melzer said. “It was nice knowing that I was doing enough to get noticed by everyone and it was really nice that another one of our teammates got it, too, so we were both able to come home with a nice little, like, thing to put on our shelves.”

* Dakota Grossman is at

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