The University of South Carolina Aiken Women’s Polo Team is holding its second ever home game this weekend. The match will be on Saturday, February 21 at 12 pm in Dennis and Janice Freeland’s new outdoor polo arena on Camp Rawls Road in Wagener. USC Aiken will be playing against a team from Virginia Tech.
USC Aiken has an active intercollegiate polo program this year, at least as far as the women’s team is concerned. The team has been to play in Atlanta against Emory. They also invited Emory to come play in Aiken on February 8, holding the first intercollegiate polo match in the Aiken area. That first Aiken game was fast and close. The two teams went into the last chukker tied 8-8, but Emory pulled out the win in the end, 12-9.
“It was amazing to have so much support while playing such a high energy game,” said Shannon Hardiman, who is the president of the USC Aiken Polo Club. “We had a great turnout of supportive and excited spectators.”
USC Aiken Polo has five members, including Hardiman, Cailyn Hough, Sydney Bolton, Candice Salisbury and the vice president, Rebecca Beaudry. The team coach is Matthew Fonseca, a 3-goal professional polo player who, along with his fiancée Jami Chandler, owns Aiken Dry Goods in downtown Aiken.
Team members are excited about their growing and improving club. They are quick to credit the help and support of the Aiken community, especially Matthew Fonseca who has been instrumental in helping them, not just in learning the game, but also in getting them horses to play and working out many logistical issues. The team has also attracted a number of sponsors, including Sharer Dale of Keller Williams Real Estate, Auto Tech, South Star Ambulance and Aiken Saddlery.
“We wouldn’t be where we are with out the amazing support of the Aiken community,” said Hardiman. “We encourage everyone to come out and experience arena polo because of how spectator friendly it is. You can really feel up close with the game. I foresee this team doing great things in the future.”
The game this weekend is free of charge, but the club will accept donations, and would be very grateful for more sponsors. For more information, visit the USC Aiken Polo Facebook page and send them a message there.
“I hope that bringing a college polo team to Aiken will spark an interest in young riders and encourage them to play polo too,” said Hardiman.