Not long after landing in South Carolina, the Sutter Buttes Polo team pulled off a shocking victory, as a seven seed upsetting second-seeded Houston, on Tuesday.
The victory qualified Sutter Buttes into the semifinals where it lost to Maryland to finish third out of the seven-team tournament, made up of areas throughout the nation.
It was an eye-opening experience for Marysville’s Caroline Mathews, a member of the four-person club team coached by Yuba City’s Bonne Magill.
The other members of the Sutter Buttes Polo team are Liliana Gonzalez, Simone Harper and Elise Pardue.
“We were considered the underdog, expected to lose but we beat one of the best in the United States,” said Mathews.
As a California squad, Sutter Buttes not only had to make the trip across the country, but adjust to a different time zone and sleeping schedule.
All in only a day or two.
Mathews, who went to her prom May 15, then immediately jumped on a plane for Aiken, South Carolina to be with her team.
Mathews said she left for the Sacramento airport at 4 a.m. on May 16 to fly red-eye to the East Coast.
It was a quick turnaround but well worth it for Mathews, who got to experience two life-changing moments in the span of a few days.
She missed out on much of her senior year at Marysville due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She lost her final year of volleyball, which led her to polo.
“I didn’t get much of a senior year,” Mathews said.
But with her transition to the game of polo, which is similar to soccer but on horseback, Mathews was reinvigorated with a childhood passion once again. She plans to continue polo at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo next year.
“I want to get the whole college experience,” she said.
Polo is a fun sport, Mathews said, played on half a football field with three players on each team for arena polo, which is what was played in South Carolina.
The game is divided into six and a half minute chukkers, also known as quarters, where players on two teams are riding horseback while trying to score goals with a mallet.
In arena polo, Mathews said an inflated ball the size of two hands is the object being batted around while players are navigating an 1,100-pound animal.
She said it is crucial to learn how to ride a horse before playing polo.
Mathews also gives riding lessons at home and plans to study animal science at Cal Poly – pursuing a career in agriculture or animals.
The best thing about a horse, Mathews said, is the fact it is a companion before anything else.
“You’re a friend first before a boss,” Mathews said.