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Let's face it, when you think of Harvard athletics, polo doesn't jump to mind. Most Harvard students probably think that polo is a Ralph Lauren cologne, and a chukker is a starting pitcher.
In the social circles of the collegiate polo world, the Harvard team receives as little recognition as it does in Cambridge.
But after the men's team defeated an established Yale squad, 15-13, in New Haven on Saturday, things may be changing.
The women's team, however, which is in its inaugural season of competition, suffered some growing pains in a 12-3 loss to the Elis.
Unlike the University, the Harvard polo program suffers from a serious lack of resources. While most collegiate teams, including Yale, have their own stables and fields, the Crimson must lease horses for each practice and match.
On Saturday, those leased horses played like thoroughbreds in the men's shocker over Yale.
"They sure were surprised that we beat them," Harvard Captain Peter Schwartz said. "It doesn't follow that a team with horses and a facility would be beaten by a team that doesn't. We just had a lot more spirit and desire."
Harvard (2-1) sent a message to its experienced counterparts in the first half of Saturday's match, taking a 10-4 lead into the break. The Elis came back late in the fourth chukker, but Harvard was able to hold on for the victory.
Schwartz led the Crimson with nine goals, while teammates Rusty Holzer and Ben Herndon added four and two goals, respectively.
The Harvard women (0-3) did not fare as well as the men, however. The Crimson, which only practices three times a week, was no match for the Yale team, which works out daily at its own stable.
"It would be awfully nice if we had horses," captain Guita Bozorgi said. "But we've done a lot without them."
The women's season began last summer, when Harvard alumnus Tommy Lee Jones invited the team to his ranch in San Salvo, Texas. Jones, who is well known in polo circles (which, of course, you know if you read Polo Digest) treated the Crimson to a week of lessons from top players.
Back in Massachusetts, however, Harvard has not been the recipient of much attention. The women's team practices often consist of simulations on a wooden horse in the basement of Adams House.
The wooden horse may have worked in Troy, but it was of little use in New Haven.
"[The Yale game] was really painful," Bozorgi said. "After a while, it just didn't matter."
Bozorgi did help to ease some of the pain by scoring the Crimson's three goals. Alex Brown and Anne McCabe each picked up an assist.
It's back to the basement of Adams House for the women, whose season resumes at Skidmore in December.
As for the men, they will look to continue their winning streak on November 16, when they travel to Virginia. Until then, Saturday's victory and the team's newfound respect will be the talk of Harvard.
"It's been about 40 years now that we've been laughed at," Schwartz said. "It just feels good to beat those who were laughing at us."
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