Georgetown Club Polo has made a comeback to prominence over the last semester, making its intercollegiate debut in October.
Since the club’s inception in the 1970s, Georgetown Polo has struggled with varying degrees of formality. Throughout 2022, it existed but was not recognized by the school.
In January 2023, current president Alfonso Pla Zobel (MSB ’24) began efforts to reinstate the club and acquire a permanent coach.
The challenge was twofold: the club had to be brought up to the university’s sports regulation and policy compliance standards, and members needed to secure a training facility and a coach so they could hold consistent practices.
The board, composed of four seniors — Pla Zobel, Ashley Parekh (MSB ’24), Ford Middendorf (CAS ’24) and Muhammad Bin Talal (SFS ’24) — came together to gain recognition from the university. As a result of their leadership, the club has had access to numerous arenas in the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area over the fall semester. Members have also been receiving guidance and coaching from Gustavo Fraga-Errecart.
The club — divided into men’s and women’s teams — officially made its intercollegiate debut in October with a match against Harvard and a tournament at the University of Virginia.
The men’s team had a formidable showing of skill and teamwork in Cambridge, Mass., on Oct. 21. Represented by Bin Talal, Middendorf, Pla Zobel and Benedikt Jaenecke (GRD ’24), the Hoyas defeated the Crimson 12-1 despite the adverse weather conditions that persisted throughout their match. Jaenecke led the team with 8 goals, Middendorf contributed 2 and Pla Zobel and Bin Talal each scored 1.
The women’s team had an admirable debut the next day, considering it was the first match for many members. The team was represented by Parekh, Camila Navarro-Delavega (SFS ’25), Lucie Bacon (SFS ’26) and Marley Simpson (GRD ’24). Despite incurring heavy setbacks in the first chukker, or period of play, they were able to tie and win the second and third chukkers, respectively, though not by enough to recover the overall score. The match ended 15-4 in favor of Harvard.
The men’s team continued to the UVA Fall Invitational, which is regarded as one of the most prestigious intercollegiate polo events in the country. Jaenecke, Middendorf and Max Gundlach (SFS ’25) played for the Hoyas in matches against the University of Virginia and Cornell on Oct. 27 and 29, respectively. Despite losing 15-6 against UVA after a difficult fourth chukker, the Hoyas found their rhythm in the nail-biting consolation match that ended in an incredibly close score of 10-9 in favor of Cornell.
Pla Zobel said October’s match results were indicative of a bright future for the club.
“It’s remarkable that in such a short period of time we’ve been able to establish a well-rounded team with enough depth and knowledge of the game to be able to perform exceptionally well against Harvard, UVA, and Cornell,” Pla Zobel told the Hoya. “UVA and Cornell are amongst the top five teams in the country so it was an honor for the club to be invited to compete against them. Really, it encapsulated our ultimate goal: to position ourselves at the forefront of intercollegiate polo.”
The ability for the club to have future opportunities to compete in the highest ranks of the sport will be dependent on securing its structural longevity, according to Pla Zobel. Pla Zobel, who is graduating in the spring after four years with the club, said he is now committed to making polo accessible to fellow students who share a passion for the sport.
“This fall we have gathered a group of fifteen players who are extremely willing to dedicate time and energy to training,” Pla Zobel said. “Coupled with the support we are now receiving from the USPA, US Polo Assn. and the university, we are working to make sure this engagement–on all fronts–only continues to grow, ideally beyond my time at Georgetown.”
With much of the season left to go, both teams are focused on preparing for upcoming matches. The women’s team will compete against SMU and UVA teams on Nov. 18 and 19, and both teams will travel to Ithaca, N.Y., at the end of January to play a tournament at Cornell.