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CSU women’s polo team wins first national championship in club history

CSU women's polo team celebrates its national championship
The CSU women's polo team celebrates its national championship. (Photo: Kaile Roos Photography)

Lily Nelson had never actually played the game until she joined the Colorado State University women’s polo team three years ago. Meanwhile, her team captain Willow Longerbeam is a longtime player who came to CSU from her home in West Virginia specifically because of the good things she heard about the program. 

They come from very different polo backgrounds, but they now have one big thing in common: a national championship. 

“What I thought was really great about this year was that all four players contributed significant and meaningful parts of the team’s success, be it at the national tournament or the regional games leading up to it,” said Stephen Coleman, the faculty advisor for CSU Polo. “If you took one part of this team away, I don’t think it would have been as successful.” 

The CSU women’s polo team defeated California-based Grossmont College 12-8 to secure the Division II Women’s National Intercollegiate Championship on April 3. This was the first national title in the history of CSU’s decades-old women’s polo program. 

Longerbeam, a junior natural resource tourism major, said the success stems from the chemistry between herself and the other three varsity starters: Nelson, Sara Eggenberger and first-year veterinary medicine student Elyse Warren. 

“I enjoy playing with all of them,” Longerbeam said. “It feels like we’re friends on and off the field, and that makes our play so much better.” 

CSU Polo is a club sport, meaning that it’s entirely student run and reliant on fees and donations. It’s also the only collegiate polo team in the state of Colorado, and has been in operation since 1977 (the sport of polo, meanwhile, has been played at CSU since 1931). 

The varsity players practice three days a week and help teach polo newbies the basics of the game using the 17 horses that are part of the team’s herd. The whole team also works together to take care of the animals. 

“That’s a really exciting part of how CSU has our program set up: While there are numerous intercollegiate polo programs across the country, we pride ourselves on that beginner program and being able to introduce people to polo,” Coleman said. “If you have some riding experience and want to do one of the coolest things you can do on a horse – in my opinion – then we’d love to have you.” 

He added: “It’s like a combination of NASCAR and hockey squished together. It’s fast, it’s physical, it’s up and down, everybody gets a workout. It’s not just fun to play, it’s fun to watch.” 

CSU women's polo team in action
CSU polo in action


The CSU women’s polo team in action during the national championship game. (Photo courtesy Kaile Roos Photography)



Nelson had experience with horseback riding, and decided to join the polo team because it was an exciting way to interact with the animals on campus. She said the hardest part was the hand-eye coordination that it takes to move the ball forward while steering with the reins. 

Her three years on the CSU polo team even inspired her to stay  involved with the sport through the Denver Polo Club. 

“After visiting so many other schools, you don’t see many others providing the support that CSU does,” she said. 

Eggenberger also started playing polo through the beginner program and said she never imagined that it was something she’d ever get involved in. 

“I actually grew up in the rodeo scene and had no idea that people who weren’t princes played polo!” she said. 

Warren joined CSU’s team this year after competing against them while completing her undergraduate degree at Oklahoma State University. Even though she was once a rival, she said she was welcomed into the fold with open arms. 

“There’s this family aspect to the team, and I wouldn’t have wanted to win the championship with any team but these ladies,” Warren said. “Outside of the success, it’s nice that horses are involved. It’s a great way to blow off steam after a tough day.” 

While this is the first title for the CSU women’s polo team, the men have won four championships, with the most recent being in 2015. Andrew Wildermuth, who was a member of that team, now volunteers as a coach for the women’s team. 

“He has worked overtime to get us to work together and play confidently, and that’s exactly what we did in the finals,” Eggenberger said. 

Longerbeam added: “Since it is volunteer and entirely student-run, we wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t love it. Hopefully this championship is the first of many to come.”

CSU polo alumni tournament

Want to see the best collegiate women’s polo team in the country in action? Many of the members of the varsity squad will be competing in the Alumni Tournament at B.W. Pickett Arena on the Foothills Campus from April 26-28. 

For more information about this event and the CSU Polo program in general, visit: https://www.csupolo.com/

CSU polo celebrates its national championship

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