Mar 14, 2016 8:59 PM

Prestonwood Wins 2016 USPA Open National Interscholastic Championship

Prestonwood won the 2016 USPA Open National Interscholastic (NIS) Championship at the ERG Arena at the Houston Polo Club in Brookshire, TX, defeating West Shore 13-11 in a tightly contested final on Sunday. It was an exciting victory for Prestonwood, having lost the final to West Shore last year.

Playing for the 2016 Prestonwood team were: Vance Miller III, Vaughn Miller Jr. and Ronnie Puente, coached by Vaughn Miller. West Shore's roster included: Jackson Bennett, Tommy Huber, Will Green and Pelham Hardie, coached by Cindy Halle and Posey Obrecht.

All Stars: Vaughn Miller Jr., Tommy Huber, Ronnie Puente and Brennan Wells

Prestonwood's strategy coming into the game was to "win the ride-offs and play big defense because defense wins games," said Puente, who made two goals. He called the game "awesome," adding, "It was a close game. We had to fight until the last second."

Teammate Vance Miller III agreed, saying, "It was such a hard fight, and we fought to the end. I am just thankful to be here."

In Vaughn Miller Jr.'s view, the victory was the result of dedication and preparation. "We worked so hard, so many hours, so many practices, and it paid off," he said. He was the high-scorer in the final, with nine goals.

The tournament featured the top six high school teams in the country, including Maryland, Poway, Central Coast/Santa Barbara and Country Farms polo clubs. Fifteen-year-old Jack McLean, who played for Maryland, sang the national anthem at the opening ceremonies.

Best Playing Pony: "Ally" owned by Prestonwood Polo Club

Winners of the Open NIS are awarded the George C. Sherman trophy, which has been presented to polo's interscholastic champions since 1928. Awards in the 2016 tournament went to:

Open NIS All-Stars: Tommy Huber (West Shore), Ronnie Puente (Prestonwood), Brennan Wells (Maryland) and Vaughn Miller Jr. (Prestonwood)

Open NIS Sportsmanship Award: Pelham Hardie (West Shore)

Open NIS Best Playing Pony (tie): Ally, owned by Prestonwood Polo Club, and Sunshine, owned by Texas A&M

Open NIS Best Playing String: Prestonwood

Sportsmanship Award: Pelham Hardie (West Shore).
Amy Fraser and Lara Straussfeld with Sunshine's Best Playing Pony Blanket

The USPA Open National Interscholastic Championship tournament is part of the United States Polo Association's Intercollegiate/Interscholastic (I/I) polo program, which is dedicated to growing the sport by providing maximum exposure, recruiting collegiate and scholastic institutions, coordinating activities and organized competition. Supporting this mission, the I/I program has experienced tremendous growth in recent years.