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QR JETS CATCHES A ONE-WAY TICKET TO THE U.S. OPEN WOMEN’S HANDICAP WINNER'S CIRCLE

Nov 21, 2022 5:40 PM

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2022 U.S. Open Women's Handicap Champions: QR Jets - Sarah Wiseman, KC Krueger, Lily Lequerica, Grace Mudra. Pictured with QR Jets' sponsor Todd Riemenschneider.
2022 U.S. Open Women's Handicap Champions: QR Jets - Sarah Wiseman, KC Krueger, Lily Lequerica, Grace Mudra. Pictured with QR Jets' sponsor Todd Riemenschneider.

Concluding the fall season at Houston Polo Club (Houston, Texas), the exhilarating finale of the U.S. Open Women’s Handicap featured a head-to-head battle between QR Jets (Grace Mudra, Lily Lequerica, KC Krueger, Sarah Wiseman) and BCI/Alliant (Cara Kennedy, Sophie Grant*, Maddie Grant, Anna Winslow-Palacios). Assembling at Tonkawa’s Wilson field, the captivating showdown was the second of two tight contests between the two teams. Falling just short to BCI/Alliant 8-6 in bracket play, QR Jets turned to strategy and discipline to prevail against their familiar foes in a back-and-forth rematch to clench the coveted title 7-5.

“We knew we had the talent, the team, and we just had to execute—it’s the best feeling ever!”  – Grace Mudra

Assembling QR Jets with the same lineup as last year’s USPA-sanctioned Texas Women’s Open (under the moniker Engel & Volker’s Houston), Krueger reflected on the determination to return following a devastating 6.5-5 finals loss, “This is the same team and the same coach as last year with Shane Rice. Losing was tough, this year I felt like we really had something to play for.” “We’ve been working on this win since last year,” added Mudra, “We’ve been thinking about this ever since, and Sarah [Wiseman] said, ‘We’re not letting this happen again.’”

Maddie Grant led BCI/Alliant with nine goals in the tournament, including two in the final.
Maddie Grant led BCI/Alliant with nine goals in the tournament, including two in the final.

Switching gears to the challenging task at hand, Wiseman revealed the adjustments QR Jets made for their anticipated rematch against BCI/Alliant, “We had to be more disciplined. We were a bit loose the first day and we were watching the ball a little too much. We had to pair up more today and slow down a bit.”

Awarding BCI/Alliant two goals on handicap, QR Jets made quick work to tie the match on a Penalty 2 from Mudra and an automatic goal Penalty 1. With each team attempting to find a consistent rhythm on the field, a Penalty 3 off the mallet of Maddie Grant ended the first chukker 3-2 in favor of BCI/Alliant.

QR Jets efficiently stifled BCI/Alliant’s scoring attempts in the second chukker. Grinding in the number two position Lequerica noted, “They wanted me to stay more on Maddie. She is the generator for their team—my job today was Maddie, Maddie, Maddie.” Knocking BCI/Alliant back on their heels, Krueger found the space needed to strike on back-to-back drives, pushing QR Jets to a narrow 4-3 lead at halftime.

Regrouping after the break, BCI/Alliant responded in kind, this time on two unanswered goals from Sophie Grant to leapfrog QR Jets and snatch the 5-4 lead. “The hardest thing in polo is keeping the intensity,” Krueger shared. “Whenever play stopped, we re-focused and found our man. We were a little loose, when they would go for backshots, looking for the ball instead of taking the man. In women’s polo especially, you’ve got to make sure you’re pushing the man behind, winning the play, and then going to the ball,” she continued.

Digging deep in the final chukker, a quick field goal from Mudra was followed by Wiseman to boost QR Jets back on top 6-5. Fending off pressure from a driving BCI/Alliant, a final Penalty 2 from Mudra was enough to seal the hard-fought victory 7-5.

Claiming her third (2016, 2017) title, a passionate Mudra shared, “We came out screaming and fought for it until the end. We knew we had the talent, the team, and we just had to execute—it’s the best feeling ever!” Reclaiming the pinnacle of the U.S. Open Women’s Handicap for the first time since 2020, an elated Krueger expressed, “It’s taken a lot of organization building—it means the world and it felt particularly special in front of a home crowd. BCI/Alliant was a very hard team to beat, we had to work hard and play as a team. I’m very proud of the young girls—Sarah’s a great captain and Shane’s a great coach!”

“I’m so happy for KC—I see a person that works so hard for everything. The youth of Grace and Lily is just amazing. [...] I’m happy for all of them and it made coaching a joy for me.”  – Coach Shane Rice

Echoing Krueger’s emotional response Rice added, “I’m so happy for KC—I see a person that works so hard for everything. I think the youth of Grace and Lily is just amazing. I’ve had the pleasure of working with them in the arena and outdoors. These guys are willing to die for whatever I say as a coach—I’m happy for all of them and it made coaching a joy for me.” Praising the dedication and knowledge of Rice, Mudra said, “Shane is so awesome—he’s so even keel and knows exactly what to tell us to perform at our best. He brings out the best in every single one of us.”

Lily Lequerica, Grade Mudra, KC Kreuger and Sarah Wiseman have now combined for seven U.S. Open Women's Handicap titles.
Lily Lequerica, Grade Mudra, KC Kreuger and Sarah Wiseman have now combined for seven U.S. Open Women's Handicap titles.

Captaining QR Jets across the finish line and earning her first U.S. Open Women’s Handicap title, Sarah Wiseman was named Most Valuable Player. Hailing from England, Wiseman shared her appreciation, “I love coming to Houston—I’ve been coming for a long time and losing last year in the [Texas Women’s Open] final, it’s nice to come back and win.” Crediting the competitive play of BCI/Alliant, Wiseman added, “Today was tough, we knew it was always going to be tough. We lost to them in the first round, and they play so well. They hit the ball, they run and they’re really smart—we had a hard day, but our team came through.”

“It was very nice of Steve [Krueger] when travelling to Argentina to leave me with a string of polo ponies to play. I got to play the 6-goal here to get to know the horses a little bit and it definitely helped. They’re amazing—thank you, Steve!”  – Sarah Wiseman

Playing Steve Krueger’s horses throughout the tournament, Wiseman also detailed her preparation, “It was very nice of Steve when travelling to Argentina to leave me with a string of polo ponies to play. I got to play the 6-goal here to get to know the horses a little bit and it definitely helped. They’re amazing—thank you, Steve!” Echoing the importance of having the time to adjust to Krueger’s string, Rice expressed, “It was huge for Sarah to prepare in the 6-goal and get more comfortable with the horses because of their differing styles; Steve likes to run and Sarah likes to bring it a little more.”

Most Valuable Player QR Jets' Sarah Wiseman on a breakaway.
Most Valuable Player QR Jets' Sarah Wiseman on a breakaway.

Don Juan (“Donny”), a 9-year-old dark bay gelding owned by Maddie Grant was awarded Best Playing Pony. Taking home BPP honors earlier this year in the 2021 Eastern Circuit Women’s Challenge at Maryland Polo Club (Jarrettsville, Maryland), Maddie elaborated on Donny’s growth, “He gives me a lot of confidence and I’m so happy he was able to perform so well, especially in Texas—he was raised here and hasn’t been back since. I got him from Joe Wayne Barry who was playing him at Sarasota Polo Club [Sarasota, Florida] a couple of years ago.”

Playing Donny in the fourth chukker, Maddie continued, “He’s super snuggly in the barn but on the field, he’s a machine. He plays with all his heart, and you can feel that—he makes me want to do that as well. He doesn’t lose a bump and he’s very quick and handy. There was one play today on a backshot into the goal mouth, and I stopped and turned it. Running and turning—that’s when he’s at his best. He got me everywhere I needed to be.”

“He’s a machine. He plays with all his heart, and you can feel that that—he makes me want to do that as well.”  – Maddie Grant on BPP Don Juan

Despite falling short of the championship, Grant shared her thoughts on BCI/Alliant’s play in the final, “I felt like we were controlling the game but got unlucky with penalties and a couple bad bounces. QR Jets played really well and pushed us.”

Best Playing Pony Don, Juan. Played and owned by Maddie Grant. Pictured with QR Jets' sponsor Todd Riemenschneider, Ariel Mazur.
Best Playing Pony, Don Juan. Played and owned by Maddie Grant. Pictured with QR Jets' sponsor Todd Riemenschneider, Ariel Mazur.

The recipient of Best Playing Pony Amateur went to Theresa (Segunda x My Man Kipper), a 9-year-old dark bay mare owned by KC Krueger. A homebred from KB Polo and full sister to younger Shadow who was also on Krueger’s final horse list, she noted, “She’s one of the first babies we’ve had at the ranch and everyone loves her. I started playing her when she was five after Troy and Joscelyn Lequerica trained her and now my dad has started playing her.” Starting on Theresa in the second and jumping back on her for the third chukker, Krueger added, “She’s very sweet and has a great mouth, which is perfect for women’s polo. I’m very proud of the horse she’s become.”

Best Playing Pony Amateur, Theresa. Played and owned by KC Krueger. Pictured with QR Jets' sponsor Todd Riemenschneider, Kelly Beal, Gaspar Gurdilich, Jose Barrientos.
Best Playing Pony Amateur, Theresa. Played and owned by KC Krueger. Pictured with QR Jets' sponsor Todd Riemenschneider, Kelly Beal, Gaspar Gurdilich and Jose Barrientos.

Planning to celebrate their momentous victory with a traditional Texan barbeque, members of QR Jets will soon again go their separate ways. “I fly out to Argentina to compete in the Argentine Women’s Open, and I will be playing with Sophia Lorenzo, and Americans Catlin Dix and Mia Bray*,” said Wiseman. Also playing concurrently in the Southwestern Circuit Women’s Challenge at Houston Polo Club for Spiritless (Cara Kennedy, Jenna Davis, Kaile Roos), Mudra planned on getting some well deserved rest following a jam-packed polo schedule including four chukkers in the morning for the Women’s Challenge semifinals followed by the U.S. Open Women’s Handicap Final.

QR Jets celebrates their momentous victory.
QR Jets celebrates their victory.

Preparing for the upcoming Interscholastic season with the Houston Open team, Lequerica shared, “We have a qualifier this week and the season starts in January.” Ready to celebrate, capturing the prestigious title was for Lequerica the greatest reward of all, “This just feels like enough—that feeling coming off the field is the celebration for me!”

*Maddie Grant is an Active Team USPA Member, Mia Bray is a Graduating Team USPA Member. 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.

QR Jets vs BCI/Alliant Final Stats.
QR Jets Final Stats.
BCI/Alliant Final Stats.

All photos courtesy of ©Kaylee Wroe.

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