Apr 04, 2023 9:16 PM
Hosted by Central Coast Polo Club in Los Osos, California, the second edition of the Division II Men’s National Intercollegiate Championship culminated in a battle between the Northeastern Regional Champions Babson College (Leonardo Borja, Diego Ante, Frederick Borja, Umar Mukhtar) and Southeastern Regional Champions University of Kentucky (Nathan Church, Chase Waldron, Kurt Mion). Accumulating an early lead and never looking back, Babson’s dedication to preparation set them apart, providing the confidence and stamina required to claim the 13-8 victory and second consecutive Division II Men’s National Intercollegiate Championship title.
“We worked really hard to achieve this and give Babson the respect that they deserve in polo.” – Babson's Captain Frederick Borja
Breaking onto the Division II scene in its inaugural season, Babson began their journey back to the podium with new additions in Federico Borja, Diego Ante, and first-time intercollegiate Coach Federico Wulff. Establishing a winning mentality from the outset, Babson’s preparedness began months prior to Nationals. Dedicating countless hours of practice at Kingswood Polo Club (East Kingston, New Hampshire), Babson’s captain Frederick Borja elaborated, “Federico put great emphasis on individually marking every man and the importance of playing as a team and not as individual talent. I think we are able to play as a collective and that has been the fruits of many, many practices.”
Dialing into the specifics of Babson’s routine Leonardo Borja added, “Thanks to Coach Federico’s experience we managed to get the results we wanted.” Holding a 4-goal arena handicap, Coach Wulff wasn’t content to simply observe from the sidelines, “As a coach I participated in most of the practices we did,” said Wulff, “[I] was always making sure they were practicing against professional players or people with experience.”
“I participated in most of the practices we did,” said Wulff, “[I] was always making sure they were practicing against professional players or people with experience.” – Babson's Coach Federico Wulff
Breezing through the semifinals, Babson earned their spot in the final in a commanding victory over Texas Tech (Ameer Khan, Cole Faires, Rowan Neidinger, Bruno Sellers). Prepared to face the University of Kentucky following their 15-9 victory over Stanford University (Amado Shrestha, Christian Martin, Will Coors, Marco Carrillo), Coach Wulff detailed Babson’s strategy, “We watched Kentucky in the semifinals, and we knew we needed to play as open as possible and make sure our players play their positions. And discipline—always discipline.”
“Federico put great emphasis on individually marking every man and the importance of playing as a team and not as individual talent. I think we are able to play as a collective and that has been the fruits of many, many practices.” – Babson's Frederick Borja on Coach Federico Wulff
Capturing a quick two-goal lead, Babson’s Leonardo Borja added another two for Babson in the second. First half contributions from Church and Mion kept Kentucky within striking distance, as Babson took a 5-3 lead into the break. Stressing the importance of limiting Church’s ability to make plays, Frederick Borja noted, “We knew if we got him out of the equation, we would be able to stabilize the game and play our own game.”
Trading goals to open the third, Ante increased Babson’s lead hitting the first two-pointer of the game to double-up Kentucky 8-4. Working primary on defense throughout the match, Ante described, “My role was to find the spaces in the field, so we could get the pass. Also, to free up spaces for my teammates, something we worked with Federico on a weekly basis to be able to perform well.” Holding Kentucky to just four goals in the second half all off the mallet of Church, Frederick Borja scored Babson’s second two-pointer as brother Leonardo found the goal mouth for the final goal of the game, sealing the victory for Babson 13-8.
“The school has supported us in so many ways, so for us to be able to give them back some recognition feels amazing. Being such a new club and beating established schools, it feels great to be on the map that way.” – Babson's Diego Ante
Capturing his first National Intercollegiate Championship alongside his brother, Borja continued, “My brother [Leo] and I have played polo together our whole lives. The connection we have really facilitates my work as a back because I’m able to know where he is most of the time. It’s incredible to win this as brothers, I think it’s one of the more special moments that I’ve encountered with him in my life.”
A third-generation polo player, Ante shared his journey to Babson through his own Intercollegiate/Interscholastic roots, “My dad [Diego Ante Sr.] won the Open National Interscholastic Championship with Culver Military Academy in 1989. He’s the one who taught me, so being able to win this has a special meaning.”
“My dad [Diego Ante Sr.] won the Open National Interscholastic Championship with Culver Military Academy in 1989. He’s the one who taught me, so being able to win this has a special meaning.” – Babson's Diego Ante
Division II Men’s National Intercollegiate Championship All-Star selections were awarded to Will Coors (Stanford University), Nathan Church (University of Kentucky), and Frederick and Leonardo Borja (Babson College). Displaying a continued positive attitude, fairness and support for his peers, Ameer Khan (Texas Tech University) received the Sportsmanship Award.
Best Playing String went to the University of Kentucky’s horses rented from George Dill. Caviar, owned by George Dill was honored with Best Playing Pony. Also a standout in the 2022 USPA Women's Arena Open, Horsemanship Award Nathan Church reflected on playing Caviar throughout the tournament, “She was a good, handy horse with a lot of spirit and power in her bumps.”
Expressing deep pride in representing Babson College, Frederick Borja shared, “We worked really hard to achieve this and give Babson the respect that they deserve in polo.” Borja continued, “As a small school and a fairly new club it was important for us to leave a legacy of good polo that the school has produced.” Ante added, “The school has supported us in so many ways, so for us to be able to give them back some recognition feels amazing. Being such a new club and beating established schools, it feels great to be on the map that way.”
Elated to bring the title back to the East Coast, Frederick Borja shared, “To achieve this a second year in a row is something extraordinary,” added Frederick, “We came in with the pressure of having won last year and winning a second time is something you don’t live every day.”
All photos courtesy of ©Kaile Roos.
Effective Date: Saturday, May 16, 2020
The suspension of USPA Tournaments and Events will be lifted for USPA Member Clubs in locales where hosting polo matches and tournaments is permitted under applicable state and local laws, executive orders and similar decrees. The USPA Member Clubs in these locales are encouraged to follow all such requirements of their state and local authorities with respect to polo operations. In addition, we also encourage all USPA Member Clubs to take the precautions recommended by the CDC. We are preparing a detailed list of best practices for USPA Member Clubs as they return to hosting USPA Tournaments and Events and plan to circulate these guidelines within the next week. We will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation closely and will notify you if we determine a different course of action is necessary.Read More