The Roger Williams University Men’s Polo team captured the 2017 United States Polo Association Intercollegiate National Championship Saturday afternoon with a 14-13 victory over Southern Methodist University.

The championship is the is the first national title in the young program’s history, as the 2016-17 academic year marks only the team’s second season as a varsity sport at Roger Williams.

In Thursday’s semifinal match, RWU (No. 2 seed) defeated Cornell University (wild card) 10-8, and SMU (No. 3 seed) upset the University of Virginia (No. 1 seed) 12-11 to advance to the finals. This was the first time in the 95-year history of the tournament that RWU and SMU were in the Final, competing for the John R. Townsend Men’s Intercollegiate Polo Trophy, inaugurated in 1922.

The Hawks were tested throughout the match, taking a 3-2 lead in the first chukka before SMU came back to tie things up at three. Both teams would go into the second period tied at four apiece.

Roger Williams went back up 5-4 early in the second chukka, but the Mustangs rallied back knot the match at five. At the end of the first two periods of play, Roger Williams and SMU were knotted at seven each.

Roger Williams pulled away from Southern Methodist in the third chukka, outscoring the Mustangs 3-0 for a comfortable 10-7 lead going into the final period. However, SMU would make things interesting in the fourth.

RWU added a goal early in the chukka, but SMU chipped away at the deficit, eventually pulling within one. SMU would notch the match-tying goal late in the chukka to force a shootout.

In the shootout, SMU missed its first two opportunities before Pedro Cabrera (Santo Domingo, D.R.) notched the first goal to give RWU the lead. The Mustangs answered right back with the tying score, while the Hawks were unable to get the clinching goal to force a second shootout.

Daymar Rosser (Philadelphia, Pa.) buried the first shot of the shootout to put RWU back up. The two teams alternated missed shots before SMU logged a goal to tie things back up at 13. George Hempt (Mechanicsburg, Pa.) knocked in the go-ahead goal for RWU, forcing a must-have goal for the Mustangs. Unfortunately for SMU, the attempt trickled wide left, giving the Hawks the championship.

Hempt led Roger Williams with six goals, while Rosser added three goals and two for Cabral.

This season, the team’s practices and home games were hosted by Newport Polo at its private instructional facility in Portsmouth.  Ted Torrey, coach of the RWU men’s polo team, is also a head instructor for Newport Polo’s interscholastic polo and adult lesson program.

Ryan Belmore has been the Owner & Publisher of What's Up Newp since 2012. He also currently works for Mountain News, where he serves as Senior Editor - North America for OnTheSnow. He previously worked for the New England Patriots and American Cancer Society. He currently serves as Vice President of Fort Adams Trust and is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers and North American Snowsports Journalists Association (NASJA).