Alicia Wells loves polo. It just took some time for those feelings to develop.
Wells, from Sykesville, watched her older brother take polo lessons for four years before trying the game herself. Now, several years later, the Garrison Forest junior starts and plays a key role for the Grizzlies, the defending national champion.
Horses always were part of Wells' life. She began riding at age 3 and often competed in eventing, which involves dressage, cross country and stadium competition.
When her brother, Trevor, began taking polo lessons, Wells was less than enthusiastic when her family took her to watch. After a while, however, her curiousity and interest grew.
She eventually started timing the chukkars [the time periods] at matches and helped to record individual scores.
Then, she decided to try and play. Wells started competing on the Garrison Forest middle school team in the seventh grade and quickly developed the skills.
And she also discovered the value of having watched her brother play.
"It was like having a chalk talk for four years," said Wells. "My brother would come home and go over everything. I got to know the rules, and I got hooked on it . . . I couldn't get off of it."
Her interest in the game led to some tough decisions in the ninth grade.
Wells gave up lacrosse to concentrate on polo. She then sold her eventing pony and bought a polo pony, named Caruso. She played on the junior varsity for two years and made the varsity this fall.
Wells plays what's called "three" on the Grizzlies' arena [indoor] polo team -- the most defensive position.
Garrison Forest coach Cindy Halle, whose team won the National Women's Interscholastic Polo championship last spring, said that Wells has played effectively this season for her 2-1 team. Halle added that Wells' aggressive nature helps her.
"Nothing fazes her," said Halle. "I haven't gotten to a situation where she's backed off or [been] fazed or anything."
Halle said Wells' polo background helps her a great deal. That background includes her family -- including her parents -- and their interest in polo. The Wells' dinner-table discussions often involve polo.
Wells said her brother helped a lot. Trevor developed into a strong player, and was a member of the national championship team at Cornell this past season.
That is now Alicia's goal: to attend Cornell and play for the Big Red. Wells was impressed with the type of player her brother has become and hopes to develop the same ability.
"I couldn't believe how sneaky he was on the field," said Wells. "He . . . made plays I'd never seen him do before. They were so good."
College play is common to Wells and the other Garrison Forest players. Since there are no other high schools in the state that play polo, the Grizzlies play colleges, club teams and a high school team from Pennsylvania.
Wells, who hopes to obtain a college degree in marine biology, is trying to ready herself for college competition.