Young Women Making Mark on Polo World
by KRISTEN ARMSTRONG, Staff Writer
|Polo may be a male-dominated
sport, but some of the young women of Hunt Country might be changing the
Julia Steiner, Ashley Van Metre and Isabella Wolf are three local up-and-coming polo players, and each has high aspirations in the sport.
Learn more about each of these young lovers of the sport:
Julia Steiner, who learned how to ride when she was about 5 years old, became interested in polo through her father and “just got hooked.”
Steiner has played polo for about five years now, and has trained with her father's pro, Juan Martin, for the past approximately three years.
This year, she is playing for the Great Meadow League (4-7 goal) and the Foxlease League (7-9 goal).
Although Steiner said she is confident in her riding skills and the control she has when she plays, she is seeking to learn how to master her nerves.
“I want to improve my game, because I get really nervous” she said in a recent interview. “In the league I've been playing in, the other players are either pros or have been playing forever. When I get the ball, I get nervous. My goal is to have more confidence.”
In addition to polo, Steiner also is a competitive eventer.
“People have asked me, ‘What do you prefer, jumping or polo?'” she said. “Jumping I can take more on the pro side, but I don't like one more than the other.”
Steiner, who will be 18 in September, recently graduated from Washington International School in Washington, D.C. and is waiting a year to attend college, so she can go to Florida and participate in eventing competitions.
When she isn't busy riding, Steiner likes to spend time with friends, go shopping and listen to music.
Ashley Van Metre was about 11 years old when she first tried her hand at polo, and it was a great fit from the get-go.
She learned to play with German Noguera, and has played in Virginia every season for the past four years. She has traveled to Chile and Argentina to play, as well.
“I like being on a team, competing, and I love riding. It all just worked out,” Van Metre said.
The 16-year-old is home-schooled, so she has the flexibility to travel abroad and play polo.
This summer, Van Metre is playing in the Great Meadow League (4-7 goal) and in the Virginia International Polo Club's 8-goal and 0-4 goal leagues. She also is competing in a three-week tournament in Saratoga, N.Y.
Playing three or four matches a week in the summer, and riding every day, Van Metre is always looking to become a better player.
“I can improve in everything,” Van Metre said. “I just have to keep practicing.”
Despite her modesty, Van Metre has had a number of successes on the field, including winning first place in an 8-goal tournament at the Royal Palm Polo Club in Boca Raton, Fla., and being named MVP in the final at the Upperville Invitational League 8-goal last September.
Besides polo, Van Metre also enjoys boating, surfing and playing tennis. She said that design and business are possible majors she will pursue in college, but going pro in polo is definitely one of her goals.
“I would love to go to college and play polo or be near a polo club,” she said. “I want to go as far as I can.”
Since the age of 18 months, Isabella Wolf has been at home on a horse. And when her mother introduced her to polo when she was 9, and she began her training at German Noguera's school, polo has been one of her greatest loves.
“There's something about polo,” Wolf said. “I never get tired of it. It's always fun.”
Currently, Wolf is playing for the Great Meadow League (4-7 goal) and Foxlease League (7-9 goal). She said she particularly likes playing the No. 1 position during matches.
“The goals are fun to make,” she said. “I like running the fastest. I've always loved speed.”
Wolf trains with pro Jose Villamil and has traveled to play in Argentina at Federico Cendoya's farm. She has played in New York and South Carolina as well. She hopes to play again in Argentina this upcoming November, and in England next summer.
This summer, Wolf joins Ashley Van Metre (her best friend since they met at 5 months of age) in Saratoga, N.Y., where she is very excited to play her first 12-goal game.
Wolf credits her success in polo to her commitment and love for the sport, but also because she manages her stables.
“Being involved has made me appreciate it more,” she said.
In addition to polo, Wolf loves photography and is interested in becoming an equine veterinarian (she attends the Piedmont Equine Practice once a week), but going pro in polo is one of her main aspirations.
“It would be a dream to be a pro,” Wolf said. “I'd like to see how far it can take me.”
And it seems like she's on the right track - the University of Virginia and Cornell University have already contacted her about playing on their college teams, and Wolf plays for UVA's high-school team already.
Ashley Van Metre, pictured here with her pro trainer Nicolas Eurnikian, is a competitive polo player and plays for multiple leagues in the area. She hopes to play professionally.