The UMass polo team defeated the Kemptville Koyotes of Ontario, Canada 5-2 on Oct. 31, winning its second home game of the season.
Elise McHugh, a junior, scored all five goals for UMass – or “Boo! Mass,” as the players’ handmade Halloween-themed uniforms read – at Stone Pony Farm in Leverett.
WORKING WELL TOGETHER
“She was a real superstar,” said McHugh’s teammate, senior Amy Dolan. Dolan and McHugh started in the game along with the team’s third varsity player, junior Tanya Chesnell.Though stating that she was excited by the win, McHugh was not eager to take all the credit for UMass’ five goals, two of which she scored on penalty shots.
“There was a lot of passing involved,” said McHugh. “I just happened to be closest to the goal.”
Dolan also said that the three starters worked well together.
“As a team, we had a lot of good passes,” said Dolan. “Sometimes I would back [the ball] and [McHugh] would pick up my back shot and make a goal. … We all made plays and she finished them.”
Also playing in their first game were UMass junior varsity players Mindy Lucas, a junior, and Heather Sliney, a senior.
‘IT WAS AWESOME’
After UMass ended the first of three 5-minute chukkers – periods in polo – with a 3-1 lead over the Koyotes, assistant coach C.B. Blyth rotated in Lucas for Chesnell in the second.
Despite some nervous feelings before stepping into an arena with a few dozen spectators looking on, Lucas said after her first match: “It was awesome. It was really exciting.”
Sliney, who came in for Lucas in the third chukker, said her first match was “a lot of fun.” Though, she said she had some bumps and bruises as a result of one of the Koyotes players who “had a really hard bump,” which is a common play in the equestrian game.
The varsity players enjoyed having the junior varsity players in the game, “I’m glad that Heather and Mindy got to play and they played really well,” said Chesnell, though adding that she was a bit disappointed she didn’t get to play in the whole game. “I’m spoiled,” she said with a laugh. “I usually get to play all three chukkers.”
The Koyotes girls weren’t too disappointed about their loss, despite coming off their first team win the night before against Vassar College.
‘WE KNEW WE HAD A CHALLENGE’
“We just watched [UMass] play last year,” said Koyotes captain Jen Shumilak. “We saw what a strong team they were. We knew we had a challenge, especially since this is only our second year we’ve been playing together.”
Koyotes coach George Bezak said stamina may have also been an issue for the team. “They were tired,” said Bezak of his players after the Halloween match. He noted that the arena at Stone Pony Farm was regulation size, or 300 feet by 150 feet – five times larger than the arena they practice in back home at the Augusta Polo Club.
Both teams, which compete under the United States Polo Association’s Northeast intercollegiate division, are hoping to schedule a rematch after the new year, this time on the Koyotes’ territory. Today at 2 p.m., UMass will be looking to repeat its Halloween victory in a match against Skidmore College. Today’s game will also take place at Stone Pony Farm, 147 Long Plain Road in Leverett.