Contender: Alyssa Daniels
Alyssa Daniels x’17 has been on a horse since she was a first-grader in Baltimore. In fourth grade, she began polo, and she started playing varsity-level polo in eighth grade. Yet of all the universities she applied to, only UW–Madison lacked what’s often called the sport of kings.
Fortunately, polo came to her. “My dad went [to the UW], so that’s how I ended up here,” she says. “I obviously fell in love [with the campus] … so it worked out perfectly that we started a team.”
Polo is one of the oldest team sports around, with players on horseback using mallets to hit a ball into the opposing team’s goal. The field is typically 300 yards by 160 — much larger than a football field — but teams can also play in a smaller arena.
The Polo Club at UW–Madison collaborates with the Madison Polo Club and its president, Ruth Dumesic MBA’81. Since 2013, the UW club has used Dumesic’s horses and arena, located in Verona. The club has been successful so far, reaching the regional playoffs of intercollegiate competition in both of its first two years.
Daniels has been part of the club since its beginning. Now in her third year on the team, Daniels is the captain and plays the number-two position. Her team won the Women’s Championship Tournament in the arena league in Los Angeles last fall, and she was an all-star selection in both regional tournaments.
Yet for all her experience and achievements, she says, “I’m not a follower, but I’m not a natural leader. I guess in polo, I’ve been doing it so long, it comes to me easier than other things. It’s nice having such a basis with the sport and being able to help other people learn.”
As she continues to build the club, she’s also working toward her degree in animal sciences and applying to veterinary schools, including the UW’s.
With the Polo Club, school, vet school aspirations, and taking care of her own horse, Daniels has her hands full. “I don’t sleep a lot,” she says. “But it’s just time management. It’s a lot of fun — and 4 a.m. nights — but it’s worth it. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Published in the Fall 2015 issue