Jan 04, 2022 6:15 PM
An Article by Tony Gregg
Played in a round-robin format with cumulative scores over two days of competition, the 2021 Women’s Pacific Coast Open at Eldorado Polo Club (Indio, California) saw Plank & Co. (Kendall Plank, Dayelle Fargey, Taylor Olcott, Micaela Saracco) sweep the competition to claim the championship.
With only three teams competing, the round-robin format provided its challenges, expressed Plank, “it was difficult because you only had two chukkers to get a feeling for the other teams.”
Fargey, who has a history of playing with Plank in various women’s tournaments including winning the 2019 Women’s Pacific Coast Open, took the lead in assembling Plank & Co. with two young players in Olcott and Saracco. “I’ve played against Taylor [Olcott] at Central Coast Polo Club [Los Osos, California] and La Herradura Polo Club [Santa Ynez, California],” Plank revealed. “And for the past two years I’ve leased horses from Micaela [Saracco’s] father Luis, and it came together that she would play and I would lease horses from him again this year,” added Plank.
Beginning on December 31, Cheval Athletics (Malia McCoy, Catlin, Dix, Sierra Dunbar, Kaile Roos), awarded .5 goals on handicap at the outset of play, faced off against Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club (Melanja Jones, Jennifer Alexy, Jessica Bailey, Cory Williams), Cheval Athletics emerged with a narrow edge 3.5-3 moving into the second day of competition. Plank & Co. entered the field for the first time in the tournament against Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club (SBPRC) to end the match leading 3-2. The final matchup of the opening round robin featured Plank & Co.’s second victory of the day over Cheval Athletics 3-2.5.
“We played strong and smart in every game and entered each chukker with a cool head.” – Micaela Saracco
Sunday’s final round robin kicked-off with Cheval Athletics and SBPRC in front of an exuberant Cantina crowd. While their first match-up on Friday was determined by handicap, Cheval Athletics comfortably took the second meeting against SBPRC 6.5-3 as Dix added three consecutive goals to the tally. Goals were extremely hard to find in the middle chukkers of play, but Olcott's single field goal resulted in a 4-2 Plank & Co. victory over SBPRC.
The last two chukkers of the final showcased a thrilling match-up between Plank & Co. and Cheval Athletics for the championship. With early offensive success courtesy of Olcott, Plank & Co. took the initial lead 4-2.5, however, Cheval Athletics made a comeback push to overtake their opponents 4.5-4. Not to be deterred, a surging Plank & Co. scored two consecutive goals to retake the narrow .5 lead. With little time remaining, Olcott converted one final Penalty 3 for Plank & Co. to secure their Women’s Pacific Coast Open title 6-5.5.
"Playing for the first time in the Women's Pacific Coast Open was such a rewarding experience," Saracco said. "Our team understood each other and connected really well on the field. We played strong and smart in every game and entered each chukker with a cool head."
"The teams were really evenly matched," Plank shared. “It was man, man, man as much as we could, play the backshot and win the field. We had two young women [Taylor Olcott and Micaela Saracco] on our team who never really played high-level women’s polo before. I was really impressed, it was great to see them shine."
Olcott shared similar sentiments, "even in the practices, our teams were very even. Going into our second game we knew we needed to work on our penalty shots and team plays. We were able to make those necessary changes to better how we were playing and come out with the win."
“My horses are a big deal to me and I do a lot to keep them in shape and fit and they are definitely a big reason why, in my mind, I was able to get MVP.” – Taylor Olcott
Leading her team with five goals in her first women's 16-goal tournament, Taylor Olcott was named Most Valuable Player. "Being the lowest handicapped player of anybody on the field and receiving MVP was big for me," Olcott remarked. "I've been lucky enough to work with Meghan Gracida and Dayelle Fargey who do a lot of work in women's polo, and have met some amazing players while playing in tournaments through them. For that, I am grateful."
Bringing her own horses to the tournament, Olcott credited much of her success to her string. "I attribute why I was playing so well to them and they worked unbelievably hard in this tournament," she said. "My horses are a big deal to me and I do a lot to keep them in shape and fit and they are definitely a big reason why, in my mind, I was able to get MVP," Olcott continued.
Best Playing Pony was awarded to Sorpresa, a seven-year old Argentine mare played by Micaela Saracco in the second chukker and owned by her father Luis Saracco. "She is small but extremely quick," commented Saracco, "it's amazing how that little mare can stop and turn. She always gives me her best, I'm always confident when I get on her."
The Sunny Hale Memorial Horsemanship Award was presented to Malia McCoy for her continued positive attitude, fairness and support for her peers on and off the field.
Commenting on the resounding success of her first Women's Pacific Coast Open, Olcott is already looking to the future, "I'm very grateful for this win, the MVP Award and the team I was able to win with. It was amazing polo with amazing women, and this tournament is one I will try and continue to play in."
All photos courtesy of ©Kerri 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