“The game was very close and hard fought the whole way through,” team captain Patrick Uretz says. “The CSU Rams played amazing, it was a fast-paced battle until the end, but we were able to play strong as a team and grind out the win in the end.
“I will remember bringing the national title back to the West Coast for the first time since 1986, winning Westmont’s first-ever national polo title and being able to share that win with my brother, Tony.”
The Warriors beat defending champions University of Virginia 15-13 on April 11 and Southern Methodist University 19-12 on April 9 to reach the finals. Last year, the Warriors came in second place after narrowly losing to UVA in the national championship game at Cornell University in New York.
This year’s Westmont team included David Samaniego, Tony Uretz, Ky Koebele, Jake Bergman and Taylor Longo. The players workout with Westley five to six days a week from November through April, riding horses on loan from the Santa Barbara Youth Polo Association.
“I’ve tried to get to nationals for 12 years and never have been able to,” says John Westley, owner/operator of the Santa Barbara Polo School who has coached the team for the past 13 years. “Going in the tournament seeded fourth or fifth and winning the whole thing is a David-and-Goliath story. “We’ve always been on the back burner, little Westmont with 1,200 kids, and we ran over the top of them. It’s very satisfying. I am proud of them.”
Unlike students at larger universities, the Westmont team members do not receive scholarships to play polo. “The NFL has a salary cap and owners can only spend a certain amount on players, otherwise just the rich guys get the good teams,” Westley says. “We don’t a cap in collegiate polo. Westmont gives scholarships for academic attributes rather than polo-playing ability.”
When the team arrived in Texas, Westley learned that two of his top players, Patrick and Tony, were battling flu-like symptoms.“I thought this isn’t going to be our year because there are still a lot of good players on UVA, CSU and SMU,” Westley says. “I said next year will be our year since all three of my starters will be playing, and we’ll be strong. But as luck would have it, we ended up getting it done this year. It was quite a surprise.”