May 01, 2017 4:47 PM
The 2017 USPA Open Interscholastic National Championship hosted at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, was expected to be one of the best tournaments of the Intercollegiate/Interscholastic season. The tournament, and the final game, proved true while adding a new team to the list of winners on the George C. Sherman Trophy. In semifinal play, Houston defeated Central Coast Polo Club/Santa Barbara in a shootout and Maryland triumphed over Gardnertown to secure positions in the final and a chance to be crowned the 2017 national champions.
Houston and Maryland both came out firing in the first chukker of the final. Maryland scored the first two goals; Brennan Wells going straight to goal, followed quickly by teammate Parker Pearce executing a classic “walk the dog” team play. Houston’s Sloan Stefanakis sunk a beautiful backshot and Grayson Price tallied another from the field to keep it close. Bennan Wells then finished an end-to-end run to put Maryland up by one at the end of the first 3-2.
In the second chukker Maryland came out swinging, Pearce placing a well-executed back shot to goal. Maryland’s Jack McLean displayed quick stick work that resulted in a three-goal lead, but Houston’s Price retaliated with a big neckshot to goal to bring the score 5-3. Maryland’s teamwork had Wells scoring and McLean hitting a perfect cut shot to increase their lead. In the last minute of the chukker, Stefanakis was fouled going to goal and awarded a penalty 1 ending the chukker 7-4 in favor of Maryland.
The third chukker saw accurate penalty shots from both Maryland and Houston. Houston focused on playing a strong defensive game, but they were unable to contain Maryland’s Wells and Pearce who scored a combined five goals. Houston was trailing by six 13-7 entering the last chukker, but were not ready to concede. Stefanakis opened the chukker with a huge two-point shot out of the bowl in. He then quickly added another before Maryland’s McLean stopped the Houston run with a goal of his own to make the score 14-10. Two more goals from Houston's Stefanakis closed the gap to two 14-12. With less than two minutes left, McLean made a huge defensive play stopping what the crowd thought would be a sure Houston goal. Wells and Pearce turned on their offensive game once again and scored two goals pulling ahead to win the 2017 Open National Interscholastic Championship with a score of 16-12.
“Houston played a fantastic game today. I feel lucky to have won. This is a huge step forward for my young team and I couldn’t be more proud of them.” – Kelly Wells
While this is the first USPA I/I Open National Championship title for the Maryland Polo Club, Maryland coach Kelly Wells led the Garrison Forest Girls’ team to an Open Interscholastic Championship in 1998.
All Stars honors for the USPA Open National Interscholastic Championship were presented to Brennan Wells (Maryland), Grayson Price (Houston), Sloan Stefanakis (Houston) and Jake Klentner (Central Coast Polo Club/Santa Barbara). Parker Pearce (Maryland) was awarded the Sportsmanship Award and Best Playing Pony went to Circe owned by Yale. Yale was also honored with the Best Playing String.
The USPA would like to thank Cornell University for hosting the Open National Interscholastic Championship. Ponies were provided by Cornell University, Gardnertown Polo Club, Maryland Polo team and the Yale Polo Club.
Photos © Mo Petkov
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