This past weekend the UNT polo team faced off against its biggest rival— SMU — in two arena matches. UNT won the first match 17-9 and the second match 13-10.
In Intercollegiate polo, every team is already qualified for the Intercollegiate tournament that takes place in the spring. Given that fall matches are strictly for seeding purposes, UNT attempted to seed high enough to skip prelims and go straight to regionals. A win in regional would send UNT to nationals and provide a chance at the national championship.
When it comes to rivalries at UNT, SMU is a consistent team, especially in polo. The strong rivalry between the clubs showed this past weekend.
“It is a grudge match, we are cross-town rivals and there is some serious, long, way back bad blood,” head coach Vaugh Miller Sr. said. “A lot of those guys played on the Houston team while we played on the Dallas team and we always beat them.”
In last year’s intercollegiate regionals match, UNT was down 8-1 at one point in the game and came back to win 11-10 and move on to the next round of the tournament. The teamlost in the semifinals at nationals to polo powerhouse Virginia.
Vaughn Miller would describe his team in one word as “beasts.”
“They are all so good and so talented, they never quit,” Vaughn Miller said. “They fight on every play until the bitter end and work very well as a team.”
Last year was UNT’s first year to compete in Intercollegiate play. The addition of freshman Vance Miller brings the team hope to push over the hump and pursue the Intercollegiate national championship. Vance Miller has a history of winning — In 2016 and 2019, he won the high school polo championship for Prestonwood Polo Club and hopes to bring the same winning mentality to UNT.
“The goal of mine is to win a national championship this year and every year,” Vance Miller said.
Vaughn Miller loves the addition of his son Vance as he brings something they were missing last year: defense. The position Vance Miller plays allows him to be the primary defensive player because he is able to move anywhere around the field and prevent someone from scoring.
“He won that 2019 championship trophy on defense, he was the defensive MVP,” Vaughn Miller said. “It’s a lot like football, defense wins championships. The defense creates opportunities for the offense.”
With Vance Miller sitting as the defensive anchor for UNT, his brother, Vaughn Miller Jr. , serves as an offensive weapon. The older Miller brother is a junior at UNT and serves as a team captain. He has professional experience and was part of the 2016 high school championship team with his younger brother. Vaughn Miller Jr. plays the No. 1 position, indicating that he is the most offensive-oriented player on the field.
“Playing for UNT is really fun,” Vaughn Miller Jr. said. “The college pool is amazing, there is nothing like it.”
Vaughn Miller is excited to have both his sons competing at a collegiate level now. He believes his team-building has created a chemistry that will push them further than their talent can take them. Playing polo, one has to work within the team or success isn’t possible.
“You have to have good chemistry, trust each other and work hard for each other,” Vaughn Miller said. “If two teams are evenly matched in a field of play, the team that has good character and trust each other, that team will outperform a team of similar capability, and that’s what these guys have.”
Vaughn Miller believes his team has what it takes to win a national championship this year and there is no other goal. The Intercollegiate national championship match will be broadcast nationally on ESPNU, which gives Vaughn Miller and his team extra motivation to make it all the way.
“If we win the semifinal round and we get to the National Championship game, we want to charter some buses and want everyone to come to Virginia,” Vaughn Miller said. “We want to pack the facility full of Mean Green flags and fans.”
Featured Image: Freshmen Vance Miller breaks away from SMU defender and scores on Nov. 15, 2019. Image by Zach Thomas