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PRESTONWOOD AND MARYLAND RISE UP TO CLAIM NATIONAL INTERSCHOLASTIC CHAMPIONSHIP TITLES

Mar 26, 2019 6:14 PM

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Niklaus Felhaber and Joe Mac Stimmel leading the way to the next play
Niklaus Felhaber and Joe Mac Stimmel leading the way to the next play.

Moving this year’s National Interscholastic Championships from Charlottesville, Virginia, to Brookshire, Texas, the top men’s and women’s interscholastic teams from across the country faced off in their respective division finals on Sunday, March 24, at Brookshire Polo Club. Taking on Houston A in the Open National Interscholastic Championship Final, Prestonwood’s skillful tactics on defense ultimately resulted in the win 13-11. Hailing from the polo program which swept both titles in 2018, defending champions Maryland qualified to challenge Houston A for the Girls’ National Interscholastic Championship, displaying their dominance with an 11-4 victory.

PRESTONWOOD’S POWER PLAYS EARN OPEN NATIONAL INTERSCHOLASTIC CHAMPIONSHIP

Prestonwood 2019 USPA ONIS Champions L to R: Vaughn Miller, Niklaus Felhaber, Johann Felhaber, Vance Miller III
Prestonwood 2019 USPA ONIS Champions L to R: Vaughn Miller, Niklaus Felhaber, Johann Felhaber, Vance Miller III.

In a showcase of offensive dominance, Prestonwood commanded the scoring to win their semifinal game against Lakeside by a landslide 24-2. Entering their second game of the tournament, Houston A delivered in the semifinal to earn a spot in the final, 18-12 over Gardnertown.

Shots from distance and stellar defensive plays led the way for Prestonwood to make their return to the top of the Open Division in the Open National Interscholastic Championship. Striking immediately from the first chukker, Johann Felhaber dominated the scoring with two consecutive two-point shots followed up by two field goals from Niklaus Felhaber. Although Grayson Price and Anson Moore each scored one to chip away at the early lead, Prestonwood led significantly after the first 6-2. The offensive battle continued into the second with strong field goals from both Felhabers and Vance Miller III, but Houston A's Price struck back from both the penalty line and the field to narrow the gap, the score sitting at 9-6 in favor of Prestonwood by halftime. Proving deadly from the penalty line, Price was responsible for converting four of Houston's five total goals scored in the second half of play. However, the Felhaber duo would add four more between the last two chukkers, and although going scoreless in the fourth, Prestonwood sealed the win 13-11.

“Our team came together organically–we’re best friends and we worked hard for two years to get here. We trust each other on the field and play for one another. Nobody is selfish, we really are ‘a band of brothers.’”  – Vance Miller III

Open All Stars- Grayson Price (Houston), Winston Painter (Gardnertown), Johann Felhaber (Prestonwood), Parker Pearce (Maryland)
Open All Stars- Grayson Price (Houston), Winston Painter (Gardnertown), Johann Felhaber (Prestonwood), Parker Pearce (Maryland).

Grayson Price (Houston A), Parker Pearce (Maryland), Johann Felhaber (Prestonwood), and Winston Painter (Gardnertown) were selected as open tournament All-Stars. The Sportsmanship Award was presented Maryland's Madison Jordan, Best Playing String was presented to Houston and Best Playing Pony of the final was presented to Tattoo, owned by Anson Moore.

Open BPP- Tattoo owned by Anson Moore
Open Best Playing Pony, Tattoo owned by Anson Moore.

MARYLAND DEFENDS THEIR GIRLS’ NATIONAL INTERSCHOLASTIC CHAMPIONSHIP TITLE

2019 Girls' National Interscholastic Championship winners Maryland - Kelly Wells, Abbie Grant, Catie Stueck, Olivia Reynolds, Sophie Grant
2019 Girls' National Interscholastic Championship winners Maryland - Kelly Wells, Abbie Grant, Catie Stueck, Olivia Reynolds, Sophie Grant.

In a decisive semifinal, 2018 Girls' National Interscholastic Championship winners Maryland easily made their way into the final with a 33-2 win over Equestrian and Polo Center of Boston. Playing strong themselves in the semifinal, Houston A proved their merit as a well-organized team, cementing their place as a finalist over Maui 17-9.

Sophie Grant of Maryland
Maryland's Sophie Grant prepares for her shot.

A defensive battle ensued for the Girls’ National Interscholastic Championship Final, bringing finalists Houston A and Maryland head-to-head. Houston A's Sharp shooter Grace Mudra gave her team a two-goal lead to start the first chukker, but Maryland’s powerful sister duo comprised of Abbie and Sophie Grant would answer back with three goals to take control of the game in the second chukker. A battle of the backshots was the theme in the second, with both sides executing beautiful plays, only allowing their opponent a single goal to end the half with Maryland leading 4-3. The Grant sisters found their mark in the third scoring three consecutive goals between them before Mudra could add her fourth goal of the day to the board, ending the chukker 7-4 with Maryland distancing themselves still further. Defensive strategy would win the day, with Maryland holding Houston scoreless in the fourth and adding four more to the tally to end the game with a commanding 11-4 victory and a repeat national championship.

Catie Stueck of Maryland
Catie Stueck of Maryland.

“I am so incredibly proud of my team and how hard we’ve all worked this past year. Each of us played our hearts out in the final game and I am so happy all of our hard work payed off,” Maryland senior Abbie Grant remarked. “I’ve had the opportunity to play on the Maryland girls' team since I was in seventh grade and I’ve loved every second of it. This year was really special not only because it was my first year as captain, but also because it was my last year of interscholastic polo and I couldn’t be happier with how it ended.”

Girls’ All Stars- Elizabeth Owens (Boston), Sophie Grant (Maryland), Grace Mudra (Houston), Abbie Grant (Maryland)
Girls’ All Stars- Elizabeth Owens (Boston), Sophie Grant (Maryland), Grace Mudra (Houston), Abbie Grant (Maryland).

Sophie Grant (Maryland), Abbie Grant (Maryland), Grace Mudra (Houston A) and Elizabeth Owens (Equestrian and Polo Center of Boston) were selected as girls’ tournament All-Stars. Equestrian and Polo Center of Boston's Ariadne Dogani received the Sportsmanship Award, Best Playing String was presented once again to Houston and Best Playing Pony honors were presented to Sonita, owned by Brady Williams.

Girls’ Sportsmanship Award- Ari Dogani (Boston)
Girls’ Sportsmanship Award- Ariadne Dogani (Boston).

All Photos @Kaylee Wroe Photography

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