Kareem Rosser and the CSU men’s polo club team ended 16 years of frustration over the weekend, winning the program’s first national championship since 1999.
The Rams overcame a big early deficit to post a 20-17 win over rival Texas A&M at the U.S. Polo Association collegiate championships hosted by the University of Connecticut. The national title is the fourth for CSU, which also won titles in 1990 and ’91.
“Every time we would go into our arena for practice or games we would look at the 1999 national championship banner and use that for motivation,” said Rosser, the team’s captain. “It feels great to finally win that title.”
So close in 2013
Rosser, a junior from Philadelphia majoring in economics, came close to ending the title drought as a freshman but the Rams fell a goal short in the 2013 title game. This year, an infusion of new talent gave the CSU the winning lineup.
Alex Kokesh, a sophomore economics major, and Jered Berg, a junior majoring in business administration, joined Rosser as the team’s primary players and combined to score all goals in the title game. While they were a formidable unit by season’s end, the Rams had some rough moments early in the season.
“We opened the season in a tournament at Cornell, and we went in pretty cocky and ended up losing to Skidmore, which is not a top program,” said Rosser, who was named to the tournament’s all-star team. “That was a really humbling moment for us. We ended up winning the tournament and it turned our season around.”
After winning the Central Region title to qualify, the Rams entered the four-team national tournament as the No. 1 seed. The nipped Southern Methodist 23-22 in overtime in the semifinals to set up a title game showdown with Texas A&M. The Rams and Aggies split two matches earlier in the season.
A&M took an early six-goal lead after the first of four chukkers (periods) before CSU rallied to forge a 15-15 tie entering the final chukker. The Rams outscored the Aggies 5-2 to complete the comeback.
Slow starts, fast finishes
“To be quite honest, we seemed to enjoy starting slow all season – I don’t think we ever led after the first period,” Rosser said. “But we never doubted we could come back against Texas A&M because we had done it before. We ended up going on a huge run, and that was the difference.”
The CSU polo club is open to male and female students. It is housed in the Department of Animal Sciences, and practices and matches are held at the B.W. Pickett Arena on the Foothills Campus. It is one of 31 sports clubs offered at CSU; those programs have produced 26 national championships.
All sport clubs are student-run organizations.
Back for more?
The great news for CSU: Every key player returns next year.
“It’s really cool that we’ve got the same team coming back next year,” Rosser said. “We want to build off what we accomplished this year. It would be great if kids looking to play polo in college look at CSU as one of the top schools in the nation and keep the tradition going.”