Polocrosse Takes Center Stage Next Weekend
With the umpire’s rallying cry of “Time on,” a foam-rubber polocrosse ball is hurled over the middle of the lineup, and suddenly, racquets clash, horses spin out and players jockey for position and possession.
This scene will be played out many times at the 11th annual Carolina Classic Polocrosse Tournament next Saturday and Sunday at the Pinehurst Harness Track.
Fierce competition is anticipated with several top-ranked U.S. players riding for their home clubs, including Carolina Polocrosse Club members Andrew Diemer of Raeford and Evan Vallee of Aberdeen.
Vallee and Diemer are headed to Zambia this summer to represent the U.S. as part of an elite program to develop players for the 2015 Polocrosse World Cup in South Africa.
“I can’t wait to try the African style of play,” says Vallee, referring to the deft racquet skills and straight-ahead speed that typifies polocrosse in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia.
Traditionally, the U.S. style of play is fairly similar to that of Australia, where the game was developed in the late 1930s.
Australians and Americans utilize the athleticism and agility of their horses to dodge other players with swift changes of direction and speed.
When pushed or herded by other players, riders often stop suddenly, spin and gallop into an open area. They advance the ball toward their goal by carrying it in their own racquet or with short passes to teammates.
However, the Aussies’ dominance of the sport slipped a bit at the World Cup last summer, and Africa’s ascended. The Aussies were defeated for the first time, and the title match featured an All-Africa final with South Africa defeating Zimbabwe 28-19. The U.S. had its best showing yet, placing fourth behind Australia.
This summer’s Zambia exchange is an important step toward giving U.S. players an opportunity to learn and defend against the African-style of play before the 2015 World Cup, says Rahul Desai, member of the Carolina Polocrosse Club and coach of the team travelling to Zambia.
“The African game is much faster and wide-open due to their players’ ability to pass the ball long distances with extreme accuracy,” Desai says. “Our team will be challenged to keep up with the faster African speed; however, I feel confident that our preparations will benefit us.”
Ryan Murphy, longtime member of Carolina Polocrosse and a three-time member of the U.S. World Cup team, evaluated and selected the players for the exchange to Zambia in his role as player development chair of the American Polocrosse Association.
“Vallee is a dedicated, up-and-coming star. Few young adults commit as much time to riding and racquet skills,” says Murphy. “He has quickly moved up and is on track to represent the U.S. at the World Cup.
“Diemer is a great rider. He is a product of the United States Pony Club and many years of competing in other disciplines. Combine that with tons of experience playing domestically and abroad, and you have a recipe for success.”
Carolina Polocrosse president David Thornton says the club is looking forward to the home field advantage this weekend and the support of local fans. He adds that CPC is the largest club in the Eastern Zone and a veritable powerhouse on the national polocrosse scene.
“While I’m pleased to see our club increasingly represented at the highest levels of play,” says Thornton, “I’m just as proud of our new members and beginning players some of whom will be participating in their first tournament this weekend.”
The Carolina Classic tournament is sponsored by Carolina Healthcare, Marlboro-Chesterfield Pathology and the Pinehurst Medical Clinic. Play runs from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. Admission is free. Concessions are available, and tail-gating is welcome. For more information, call (910) 695-5480.
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