Women's polo


Kicking-off the final day of competition in the Division I National Intercollegiate Championships, the women of Texas A&M University (Cara Kennedy, Josie Dorsey, Olivia Reynolds) faced reigning champions University of Virginia (Katie Define, Elizabeth “Liz” Owens, Alana Benz, Kellie Booth). Hosted by Virginia Polo Inc. (Charlottesville, Virginia), the University of Virginia (UVA) came into the competition with the home advantage, however Texas A&M University’s (TAMU) adaptability and calm under immense pressure led the Aggies back to the podium for the first time since 2019.

A young team comprised of two juniors (Reynolds and Kennedy) and freshman Dorsey, TAMU excelled from the penalty line. Taking the majority of TAMU’s penalty attempts, six conversions from Reynolds combined with a crucial two-pointer aided the Aggie’s second half comeback to force a shootout. Pushing both teams to the limits of their mental and physical strength, a nerve-wracking second round of overtime penalties finally broke the stalemate, with Reynolds hitting the golden goal for an electrifying 13-12 victory.

Recently beginning her intercollegiate journey as Reynolds’ roommate, Dorsey shared her introduction to TAMU polo, “Coming in as a freshman, you don’t even expect to get playing time. I was fully prepared regardless of handicap or status in the polo world to sit on the bench.” Immediately given a chance to participate, Dorsey soon emerged as a key contributor, “I played every single game and took every trip. The way they’ve included me has been awesome.” Bringing her own flare and experience in outdoor polo to the TAMU team, Kennedy shared, “I’m the level-headed one. My role is to go to a man and make sure we’re all doing our jobs, staying calm and not getting too frazzled.”

Blazing through the semifinals, the TAMU trio handily defeated the University of Kentucky (Caroline Mooney, Grace Beck, Taylor Nackers, Ava Nunes) to advance against a formidable UVA. Although not meeting UVA during Nationals until the final, TAMU recently ended their regular season losing back-to-back games against the Cavaliers. “We played UVA the weekend of March 31,” said Reynolds, “The first game we lost by six. We just came out slow and weren’t really thinking. On Sunday we had some fire, but we lost that one by three.” Now faced with the hurdle of going through UVA to claim the championship, Kennedy shared, “We just didn’t want to run out of steam. That happened the last time, we started really strong and then just got tired.” Dorsey added, “They’re aggressive, their horses are nice, and they move really quickly.”

Getting out to quick start, three Penalty 2’s from Reynolds outscored UVA’s Owens and Benz to give TAMU an early 3-2 advantage. Capping off a low scoring and physical first half, a two-pointer off the mallet of Define lifted UVA to a narrow 4-3 lead at the break.

Adjusting to playing new strings while UVA had the advantage of familiarity, Dorsey detailed the process of procuring horses for nationals, “We rented horses because we didn’t want UVA to have two strings. The two times we lost against them this season, it was two strings of UVA horses and we wanted to avoid that.” Dorsey continued, “We made some connections and rented from Dardo Iglesias. We had to figure out who was riding whom, but once we did, they were awesome in the game today.”

Kicking off the second half with a UVA two-pointer from Benz, Reynolds kept TAMU within reach 5-7 with two penalty conversions. Racking up TAMU’s sixth penalty goal in five chukkers of play, Dorsey shared the importance of discipline, “Anytime we were around goal, we tried to slow down and draw those fouls. We were able to catch those strong players off guard where they don’t normally mess up.”

Leading UVA in scoring, Benz’s four-goal fifth chukker created some much-needed separation for the Cavaliers, but it was short lived as Reynolds responded with TAMU’s only two-pointer of the match to maintain the gap. Crediting the strength of Benz, Dorsey expressed, “Everything she does is strong and aggressive, and she’s smart. It was a very fast polo game, which we knew it would be.”

In an unfortunate series of events for UVA, TAMU drew three Penalty 1’s riding the rented string of DI horses in the final chukker to equalize the score 12-all. Requiring a shootout to determine the victor, the first round of overtime penalties yielded one goal from each team to build the suspense and force the national contest into a second round. Following unsuccessful attempts from the other five players, it was up to Reynolds once more.

Moments before stepping to the line, an emotional Reynolds pulled her teammates together stating, “Win or lose, I love you so much. I wouldn’t want to be here with anyone else and I wouldn’t have done anything differently.” Watching on pins and needles from the sidelines Kennedy documented, “Me and Josie stood the other way from where she was shooting, and we were holding hands.”

Following through with the same poise and strength shown all tournament, Reynolds stepped up to the line and promptly hit the goal mouth to deliver TAMU the Division I Women’s National Intercollegiate Championship 13-12. Reflecting on the heart-pounding moment sealing TAMU’s victory, Reynolds continued, “I saw it going in, dropped my head, and tears just started coming.” Confident in her captain, Dorsey said, “I 110% knew she was going to make that shot. She’s so solid and really great under pressure. [Coach] Mike McCleary has a polo field and we’ve been out there so many times just practicing penalty shots.”

Claiming her first Intercollegiate title as a freshman, Dorsey continued, “This is a team of best friends and we’ve been really excited to play together all year. To win next to each other and get though a tough game together, we’re very excited to be here.” Kennedy added, “We went through a lot to get to this point. We wanted to do this for us and our parents because they supported us so much though this semester and season, that’s all I was thinking of. To be able to bring it back to Texas, especially watching Texas A&M growing up. Now, to be someone on this team, to raise this trophy—that means a lot.”

Division I Women’s National Intercollegiate Championship All-Stars were awarded to Alana Benz (University of Virginia), Josie Dorsey (Texas A&M University), Olivia Reynolds (Texas A&M University) and Lindsey Morris (Southern Methodist University). Displaying a continued positive attitude, fairness and support for her peers, Grace Grotnik (Southern Methodist University) received the Connie Upchurch Memorial Sportsmanship Award. Rounding out the awards presentation, Texas A&M University’s Josie Dorsey took home the David Wenning Memorial Horsemanship Award.

Best Playing String went to the University of Virginia’s string, which included Valentina, Red, Cracker, Lucia, Whiskey, Bella, Yeti and Tina. Ola Jagger, a 14-year-old Argentine gelding owned by Ola Polo Company, claimed Best Playing Pony. Ola Jagger played high-goal his whole life, but recently moved to lower level polo due to his age. Co-Founder of Ola Polo Company Olivia Johnson described his strengths, “His best quality on the field is that he can maintain calmness in the craziness of the game. He doesn’t lose his head and he is such a steady platform to hit off of. He is one of the most comfortable horses we have!”

Despite being a third year student, this was Reynold’s first year competing on the national stage, as she had been an alternate in previous years at the collegiate level. Similarly, she racked up two interscholastic championships while in high school, but was also an alternate. Still searching for words, an overjoyed Reynolds reflected, “This means everything to me. To be my first year as captain and to lead this young team to the finals and make the winning goal, that was unreal.”