Jan 03, 2020 5:02 PM
All well-rounded tournament bringing ladies from as far as Texas, the Eldorado Polo Club provided not just competition but a full weekend worth of fun and camaraderie, jumpstarted by the "Important Women Throughout History" themed party at The Cantina. Costumes ranging from Rosie the Riveter, Coco Chanel, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Jane Goodall and the Statue of Liberty were among the costumed women polo players.
Both teams playing an even first game resulting in a tie, Alazanas Foxi challenged Bearsden to a rematch in the Pacific Coast Circuit Women’s Challenge Flight A Final on Sunday, December 29, at the Eldorado Polo Club in Indio, California. Assuming the lead from the first chukker, Alazanas Foxi maintained the narrow gap throughout the game to defend their 2018 title and recapture the trophy 5-4.
“We are pretty excited to win again this year! Both games against Bearsden were extremely close. I think we had more success in the final because we were determined to mark our men tighter and with more discipline than in our previous game.” – Kate Weber
Meeting for the first time on Saturday, December 28, Alazanas Foxi and Bearsden played a tight opening game, matching each other goal for goal. Although a single goal by Jennifer Alexy won the first chukker for Alazanas Foxi, the level competition ended without a victor 5-all. Striving for a different outcome in their second matchup of the tournament, Alazanas Foxi decided to make a few tweaks to their strategy. “We changed who a couple of us were marking and we also made a change in our throw-ins,” Malia McCoy said. “Also we committed to mark our woman one-hundred percent and to back each other up.”
Motivated to defend their title, Alazanas Foxi entered the final the following day ready to fight for the win. This time Bearsden opened up the first with a penalty goal by Tiffany Busch, but Alazanas Foxi retaliated with two goals of their own to end the chukker in the lead. Holding onto their early advantage in the second, Alazanas Foxi countered their opponent’s goal again to end halftime 3-2.
Unwilling to let Bearsden even the score this time, Alazanas Foxi maintained their one-goal advantage throughout the second half exclusively from the penalty line. Each side scoring a goal apiece in the third and fourth, Alexy was responsible for both of her team’s goals in the second half, her accuracy winning the tournament 5-4.
As all four Alazanas Foxi teammates are based out of Deer Creek Polo Club in Thermal, California, the team camaraderie is palpable. “There is honestly nothing better than getting to play polo with good friends who are also exceptionally talented polo players,” Alexy said. “We all bring something different to the table so the complimentary effect of us playing together is what made it work.”
“For me the highlight is always when my ponies get the recognition they deserve as they truly do all the hard work!” – Jennifer Alexy
Best Playing Pony was awarded to 15-year-old Taxi, an Argentine gelding owned and played by Jennifer Alexy in the first chukker. “For me the highlight is always when my ponies get the recognition they deserve as they truly do all the hard work!” Alexy commented. “While he is tall, he is as athletic as the smallest of horses and has a great mouth. He gives one-hundred percent every time he goes out on the field and will even give you a second great chukker if you need it!”
Jessica Bailey was named Most Valuable Player and received the 2019 Sunny Hale Horsemanship Award. “First, and always first, are the horses. Each of us had great equine partners each chukker which made the game so much more enjoyable,” Bailey said. “I really am grateful to take the field with ladies that I believe in both on and off the field and that feeling carries over into our play. We truly communicate, have great teamwork and have each other’s backs on every play. It is an honor to play with a team like that!”
A jam-packed weekend of polo at Eldorado Polo Club in Indio, California, featured eight teams fighting for a spot in the unique round-robin final of the Pacific Coast Circuit Women’s Challenge B-Flight on Sunday, December 29. Rain delayed the start of preliminary games, however it did not slow down the single elimination tournament held in a rapid two-day succession that left Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club (SBPRC), GK Farms and Rancho Del Sol to battle for the title, playing two chukkers against each opponent. Behind two strong victories in the final, Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club stood alone with an undefeated record to capture the tournament victory.
“It was the highlight of my year to play with my office girls and especially to get Judith Baker, who was a pioneer of women's polo, back on a tournament field. She is a legend and it was an honor to be part of this team.” – Melanja Jones
The opening match of the round-robin final featured Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club (Judith Baker, Cory Williams, Mia Bray, Melanja Jones) against GK Farms (Jessica Keneally, Sierra Dunbar, Athena Malin, Jessica Bailey), with the former setting a fast pace in the opening chukker. Consecutive field goals from Jones and Bray gave SBPRC a quick 2-0 lead, forcing GK Farms to alter their strategy with just over one chukker left in the first game. Pressing for offense, GK Farms committed two fouls that led to two penalty conversions for Jones, turning their two-goal deficit to four. Back-to-back goals from Malin brought her team within 1.5 goals, but time ran out resulting in SBPRC capturing the first game with the 4-2.5 victory.
The second game featured the remaining competitor Rancho Del Sol (Julie Reeske, Megan Flynn, Jenny Alexy, Karen Reese) against a hopeful GK Farms team, receiving 0.5 goals on handicap and in need of a victory to keep their chances alive. Building on their momentum from the end of the first game, GK Farms was led offensively by Malin, who opened the scoring with her third goal of the day. Coming forward from the number four position, Bailey extended GK Farms’ lead to two, until a penalty conversion from Flynn ended the first chukker with a 2.5-1 score in favor of GK Farms. A close contest was ultimately decided on the penalty line in the final chukker, with the pressure of GK Farms causing foul trouble for Rancho Del Sol. A penalty conversion each from Bailey and Keneally sealed the 4.5-2 victory, as all eyes turned to the final match of the day.
Facing a SBPRC team that had captured the first victory of the round robin final, a win for Rancho Del Sol would leave all three teams with a 1-1 record. Determined to stay undefeated, SBPRC added to their half-goal handicap advantage on Jones’ fourth goal of day, the highest scorer among all 12 players. An impressive defensive effort from SBPRC kept Rancho Del Sol off the scoreboard, leaving them just one chukker away from the tournament title. The focus continued to be on the defensive end for SBPRC, thwarting each attack from Rancho Del Sol and generating a counterattack, extending their lead to 2.5 after Williams’ first goal of the game. Time expired on the exciting final at Eldorado Polo Club with SBPRC capturing the Pacific Coast Circuit Women’s Challenge B-Flight title.
Mia Bray was awarded Most Valuable Player honors. “It was a really fun team with great chemistry,” Bray said. “We know we work well together off the field, so it was really great to put that into practice during this tournament.”
Cory Williams’ 9-year-old Blanca, an off-the-track-thoroughbred played in Williams’ final chukker garnered the Best Playing Pony blanket. “I got her as a 4-year-old green horse from Megan Judge at the Central Coast Polo Club in Los Osos, California. She’s been my favorite horse ever since because I had the opportunity to work with her from such a young age.”
*Mia Bray is a member of Team USPA. The mission of Team USPA is to improve the sport of polo in the United States by developing the talent/skills of young American players through mentored training and playing opportunities, ultimately leading to a pool of higher-rated American players.
All photos courtesy of ©Kerri & Hope Kerley.
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