CSU Equestrian Polo strives for first national title since 1999

Haleigh Hamblin

Kareem Rosser, a junior and captain of the polo team, has a calm moment during the team's practice Wednesday afternoon.
Kareem Rosser, a junior and captain of the polo team, has a calm moment during the team’s practice Wednesday afternoon.  Photo credit: Mattie Whaley

No one could have expected that of all the schools in the United States, Colorado State is the No. 1 team in the country right now.

With football, basketball and most NCAA teams done for the season, it is important not to forget right now is the most important part of the season for Equestrian Polo and the United States Polo Association.

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For the second time in three seasons, almost two years to the exact date, CSU has advanced to compete at Nationals. With 2013 ending in a loss in the finals by one goal and 2014 concluding at regionals, this season has the highest potential in 15 years.

“This really means a lot to us, because a lot of people were doubting us, but we haven’t lost since the beginning of the season and have been beating all these tough teams,” transfer student Alex Kokesh said. “Now that we have the regional title, they are a little nervous.”

The team will leave Easter Sunday for Philadelphia, destined for Storrs, Connecticut. With a bye in the first round of the national tournament and a No. 1 seed locked in, the team is excited to make history with four other teams standing in the way.

A win would be the first national title for the school since 1999.

“I would say it is a big difference compared to last season,” captain and coach Kareem Rosser said. “This season we have a lot more chemistry. Over the three years that I have been here, I would say this is the closest our team has been.”

With two returning starters, one of which being the captain and coach alongside midfielder Jered Berg, the teams feels this season has clicked unlike any before.

Rosser has been the captain of the team for the last two seasons and has been the elected coach by the team. Without a coach looking in on the team’s every move, Rosser and the team are able to make decisions that work best for the team and are often taken to a vote. Rosser was described by his teammates as a humble player who looks to make the team the best it can be.

“Jered Berg has improved a lot this season and Kokesh brings a different style of play to the team that we didn’t have last season and is much needed,” Rosser said. “Myself personally, I have matured as a player and I am a better captain this season. I have been able to slow things down in my head, which makes it easier to take a step back and look at the things we need to do to win as a team.”

Last season the team lost senior Ryan Hattara, a pivotal component to the success of any competitive polo team. Without a skip in the team’s step, a transfer student, Alex Kokesh, with experience playing at his parents’ polo club in Santa Fe, New Mexico and overseas in Argentina, considered the polo capital of the world, brings a whole new style of play to the team.

Kokesh described its like indoor soccer — a fast-paced game that lets players use the walls when driving down the field, with each position rotating as each player moves up and down the field. He believes their style and strategies rely on its fluidity.

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“Its really cool because Kareem (Rosser) is a lot like the people I played with overseas. He is an animal out there,” Kokesh said. “I try my best to complement his style, and that really has worked well with us this season winning games.”

Kokesh mentioned that one of the team’s strengths, competing against some of the other schools on the national level, is the fact that they spread out around the arena and do not line up along the boards like some of the Ivy League schools.

“Now we are getting towards the end of the season, I think we are going to continue to focus on what we have done all season long, seeing that it has kept us winning,” Rosser said. “I think that these next couple days and weeks are going to be intense. Getting as much time on the horses as we can and keeping ourselves healthy is what is important right now.”

“We can’t play down to the other teams’ level. We are a well-balanced team with a strong bench,” Kokesh added. “We are the team to beat right now.”

Collegian Sports Reporter Haleigh Hamblin can be reached at sports@collegian.com and on Twitter @haleighhamblin.