Mar 28, 2023 8:00 PM
Assembling and celebrating leading women’s talent in the sport of polo, the USPA Women’s Arena Handicap descended upon Legends Polo Club (Kaufman, Texas) from Saturday, March 25 to Sunday, March 26. Making its debut in the Lone Star state, a fresh set of four talented teams battled for their first opportunity at the title. Each advancing through the single-elimination format, Elite Motion & Performance (Stephanie Massey Colburn*, Amanda Massey, Megan Rahlfs) faced-off against 10X (Kelly Coldiron, Morgan McBride, Roxy Keyfauver) in Sunday’s anticipated finale. Adjusting to 10X’s early lead, Elite Motion & Performance’s flexibility was on full display in a spectacular second half comeback. Featuring offensive contributions from all three players, Elite Motion & Performance combined their balanced attack with the defensive discipline to emerge victorious 15-11.
“Hustle—hustle where you need to go and settle once you get there.” – Amanda Massey
Playing together since they were young, sisters Stephanie Massey Colburn and Amanda Massey detailed the competitive bond they shared over the years to bring them to this level of arena polo. “We played together in high school and then I followed Amanda to intercollegiate polo at Texas A&M,” said Massey Colburn. Amanda added, “We’ve been playing together for decades, and we have really good chemistry. We both know our jobs and each other really well.” Jumping on the opportunity to compete in the USPA Women’s Arena Handicap, Massey Colburn continued, “I’ve been following this tournament for years on the East Coast and never had the opportunity to play in it, so I was just thrilled and wanted to support the tournament when I found out it was going to be in Texas at Legends.”
Eagerly assembling a team, the sister-duo quickly found a third player in fellow Texan native Megan Rahlfs. Massey Colburn spoke about Rahlfs, “We’ve gotten to play against each other a handful of times and [we] just love how she rides and plays.” Elated to finally unite with the sisters, Rahlfs shared, “It’s been a dream of mine to play with them. I’m so glad [this] tournament is here in Texas.” Despite playing together for the first time, Rahlfs settled in with her new teammates seamlessly, “Stephanie and I play similarly, so I knew we would all quickly adapt to each other.” She continued, “Our team dynamic is very open and communicative. We spent a lot of time planning our strategy and horses depending on the team we were up against.”
Facing Mayer Ranch (Grace Grotnik, Lindsey Morris, Lulu Moore) in the semifinals, Elite Motion & Performance began their undefeated weekend with an 18-11 win. Booking their ticket into the final, Massey Colburn reflected, “We knew going into this game we were going to be playing a really disciplined team. Being quicker than our opponent was important. Me and Megan wanted to be able to not only to rush into position, but take the time to settle into the play.” Following a 15-12 victory for 10X over Clear Creek (Kimberly Vaughn, Megan Flynn, Raeann Magill), Massey expressed the challenge of 10X’s Keyfauver awaiting them in the final, “We’re going to have to be strong against Roxy, she’s like a mini-Sunny Hale. She’s a legend and can ride the hair off anything!”
Awarding 10X one-goal on handicap, Coldiron struck early from the penalty line to increase 10X’s lead, but it was Keyfauver hitting two separate two-pointers in the second chukker that gave her team the edge. Despite each Elite Motion & Performance teammate reaching the scoreboard in the first half, including two goals from Massey Colburn, the command of Keyfauver gave 10X the 7-5 advantage at the break.
Regrouping at the half, Massey noted, “[Roxy] hit so many two-pointers this weekend, our goal is to shut her down—that really is the only way to win. We’re not afraid to bump and be physical. They’re all strong girls, we [aren’t] intimated by getting physical out there.” Also currently competing in the Texas Arena League (TAL), Massey and her teammates relied on their experience throughout the TAL season combined with the familiarity of playing their own horses to give them the upper hand. “[TAL] was definitely our preparation. We know our horses really well—that was our advantage, everyone leasing horses didn’t have that advantage,” stated Massey.
Relying on horsepower and determination, Elite Motion & Performance kicked-started their second half comeback, putting together an explosive six-goal third chukker. Leading the charge with three-goals, Rahlfs elaborated on their strategy, “Our roles swapped around a bit, it varied based off the play and what horses we were on. Amanda played more of a number one position but didn’t hesitate to pick up a man or rotate positions where needed. Playing with two strong, confident players, I never had to worry about someone not being able to pick up a loose man.”
Holding 10X to goals from McBride and Coldiron in the third, Elite Motion & Performance’s defensive adjustments continued to flourish. Keeping Keyfauver at bay to score only twice in the fourth, the Massey sisters combined for four-goals to seal the 15-11 victory and claim Elite Motion & Performance’s first USPA Women’s Arena Handicap title.
Ecstatic following their victory, Massey shared the root of her team’s success, “Hustle—hustle where you need to go and settle once you get there.” Massey continued, “Positioning is key in the arena; I feel like we play very textbook arena polo. Take the ball down the wall, block each other, pass the ball up, keep one man in front and one man behind.”
Leading Elite Motion & Performance on both sides of the ball, Stephanie Massey Colburn was named Most Valuable Player. “There could’ve been a lot of MVPs out there,” stated Massey Colburn, “I was really blessed today with good horses and good teammates, they made me look better.” Massey Colburn added, “I have to give a big shoutout to my buckskin horse Gunsmoke too, for his size he’s got such big power, speed and handle.” For her continued positive attitude, fairness and support for her peers, Amanda Massey received the Sportsmanship Award.
Best Playing Pony honors went to Cookie, an 8-year-old mare played and owned by Morgan McBride. “Cookie is very near and dear to my heart,” said McBride, “She was my second horse that I ever purchased, she had never been ridden for polo before, but I swung a mallet off her and she was like butter. I knew she was going to be a special horse for me. I’ve been playing her for three years, and she’s never let me down. People always talk about the difference between a good horse and a great horse is heart. Cookie is a horse that has heart.”
Best Playing Thoroughbred was awarded to Pata Blanca (Sugar on the Grass), played by Megan Flynn, and owned by Robin and Ricardo Sanchez. “My first time riding her was yesterday,” shared Flynn. “I played her two chukkers on both days and you wouldn’t even know it. She was solid in both chukkers on both days.” Flynn continued, “She’s real soft in the face, very handy, and pushes in the ride-off. She gave me confidence right out of the gate on both days, I loved [playing] her.”
Grateful for the Texas-style hospitality and world-class arena conditions, Massey reflected, “Legends Polo Club is a really great venue. The footing is always excellent because the ball moves really nicely. Nacho [Estrada]is a great host and he cooked us a fabulous dinner last night. We always feel like family here, so it’s been great.”
Wrapping up competition in the TAL, Rahlfs shared what’s on the polo horizon, “This was the last weekend of the [arena] season for us. We’ve had a busy few months playing the TAL. It’s time for a well-deserved break for the horses and then start up outdoors in a few weeks. This win really closed out the indoor season on a high note!”
Watch the USPA Women’s Arena Handicap final now available On-Demand at uspolo.org and on the USPA YouTube Channel.
*Stephanie Massey Colburn is Team USPA alumna. Team USPA is a USPA program designed to enhance and grow the sport of polo in the United States by identifying young, talented American players and providing mentored training and playing opportunities leading to a pool of higher rated amateur and pro players and the resultant giveback to the sport of polo.
All photos courtesy of ©David Murrell.
Effective Date: Saturday, May 16, 2020
The suspension of USPA Tournaments and Events will be lifted for USPA Member Clubs in locales where hosting polo matches and tournaments is permitted under applicable state and local laws, executive orders and similar decrees. The USPA Member Clubs in these locales are encouraged to follow all such requirements of their state and local authorities with respect to polo operations. In addition, we also encourage all USPA Member Clubs to take the precautions recommended by the CDC. We are preparing a detailed list of best practices for USPA Member Clubs as they return to hosting USPA Tournaments and Events and plan to circulate these guidelines within the next week. We will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation closely and will notify you if we determine a different course of action is necessary.Read More