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USA MAKES A HISTORIC STATEMENT IN FIRST FIP WOMEN’S WORLD POLO CHAMPIONSHIP

Apr 26, 2022 3:52 PM

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Team USA - Lily Lequerica, Audry Persano, Jenna Davis, Erica Gandomcar-Sachs. ©Sergio Llamera
Team USA - Lily Lequerica, Audry Persano, Jenna Davis, Erica Gandomcar-Sachs. ©Sergio Llamera

Narrowly defeating England in a tight semifinal matchup 4-3, the United States (Audry Persano*, Erica Gandomcar-Sachs, Lily Lequerica, Jenna Davis) celebrated a major achievement not only for their country but for all women’s polo as they prepared to take on Argentina (Agustina Imaz, Azucena Uranga, Catalina Lavinia, Paulina Vasquetto) in the FIP Women’s World Polo Championship Final. Starting off the tournament with a strong win, the USA conquered Brazil in their opening game 7-3.5, despite the South American team starting off with a 2.5 goal advantage of handicap. With Italy gaining one goal on handicap, the USA had a narrow defeat 4.5-4 in their second matchup.

Lily Lequerica and Team USA defeated Italy to move onto the FIP Women's World Polo Championship Final. ©Guadalupe Aizaga
Lily Lequerica and Team USA defeated England to move onto the FIP Women's World Polo Championship Final. ©Guadalupe Aizaga

More than five thousand spectators filled the stands on Saturday, April 16, to witness the historic final, an amount that even surpassed most of the Argentine Open matches on Palermo Field 2 in recent years. “I will never forget the sound and vibrations of the roar of the crowd when Argentina scored the first goal,” Gandomcar-Sachs said. “I've never experienced anything like that and it will ring inside my memory for years.” Although Argentina won the championship 6-2, the United States displayed strong defense and each of the players left the experience both proud and humbled to represent the USA on an international stage.

“Growing up I have watched hundreds of polo games on those exact fields and I have always wanted to make the trip to at least go see a game! Now I can say I played at Palermo with an amazing team – it’s a dream come true!”  – Jenna Davis

Selecting players with a particular set of skills to build a strong team, the teammates which ultimately came together also all happened to be intercollegiate/interscholastic alumnae. “I feel this experience opened the eyes of many women’s polo players for the future,” Persano said. “It showed that with confidence in one another, hard work and guidance from other inspiring players, dreams really do come true.”

Combining youth and experience, the American team was led by Erica Gandomcar-Sachs at back. Displaying a fantastic defensive performance during the first half of the match, USA entered halftime down 2-0 with three chukkers remaining.

Leading the American team at back, Erica Gandomcar-Sachs reaches for the ball. ©AAP
Leading the American team at back, Erica Gandomcar-Sachs reaches for the ball. ©AAP

Competing in the first Argentine Ladies Open in 2017 with an all-American team, Erica Gandomcar-Sachs recognized the importance of this tournament in the advancement of women’s players all around the world. “Playing at Palermo is every polo player's dream and as a little girl I never thought I would even have the opportunity to play on such a grand stage,” Gandomcar-Sachs shared. “Playing for your country is different because there's a sense of pride and even a heavy responsibility because you know you're playing for the pride of your country. It really hit me when they played our national anthem during the final. I knew it then, that win, lose or draw, this was a huge step for women's polo and for these young women.”

Jenna Davis embraces the physicality of the match against Italy while going for a nearside foreshot. ©Sergio Llamera
Jenna Davis embraces the physicality of the match against Italy while going for a nearside foreshot. ©Sergio Llamera

Pushing back in the last two chukkers of the match, both Lily Lequerica and Erica Gandomcar-Sachs scored goals for USA but ultimately Argentina came out on top 6-2. Although competing for their individual countries, it was clear that regardless of which team took home the trophy, women of every nationality would benefit from the creation of this inaugural tournament. “I overheard my teammate Erica [Gandomcar-Sachs] say something that really struck a chord with me,” Davis shared. “She was talking about the greatest women’s players and pioneers such as Sunny Hale and Claire Tomlinson and how they paved the road for us. It’s now our duty to build the city for the next generation.”

“After the final, I was overwhelmed with emotion not because we came in second, but because I realized our city is going to be incredible!” Davis continued. “Each player out there was filled with so much talent and had worked hard to get to this point. We all wanted to show the world that women’s polo is just as competitive as mixed.”

Team USA acknowledges the capacity crowd. ©Sergio Llamera
Team USA acknowledges the capacity crowd. ©Sergio Llamera

Receiving the Fair Play Award, Audry Persano was especially impacted by the welcoming atmosphere and opportunity to learn more from the experiences of women just like herself.

“It was so neat to have so much enthusiasm from all directions: the polo associations, fans, as well as the other players and coaches,” Persano said. “I loved being on the field, but meeting other players who are also working hard to grow the sport for women and hearing their stories of how we all made it to the first FIP Women’s World Polo Championship was special.”

Lily Lequerica carries the ball on a breakaway in the FIP Women’s World Polo Championship final. ©Sergio Llamera
Lily Lequerica carries the ball on a breakaway in the FIP Women’s World Polo Championship final. ©Sergio Llamera

Best AACCP Polo Argentino Playing Pony honors were presented to Tan Ovacionada, owned by Bárbara Tanoira and played by Erica Gandomcar-Sachs in the fifth. Riding her for the first time during the horse trial practice, Gandomcar-Sachs immediately knew the mare was going to be her favorite. “Because I could only play her once in the final it was hard to decide where to put her in my lineup!” Gandomcar-Sachs revealed. “Tan Ovacionada gave me such confidence on the field and I could trust that whatever shot I needed to make or wherever I needed to be she would take me. She has speed, calm, cool confidence, power, and the heart of a lion - she gave me wings!”

Best AACCP Polo Argentino Playing Pony was presented to Tan Ovacionada, owned by Bárbara Tanoira and played by Erica Gandomcar-Sachs. ©AAP
Polo Argentino Best Playing Pony was presented to Tan Ovacionada, owned by Bárbara Tanoira and played by Erica Gandomcar-Sachs. ©AAP

“This experience is one that I am lucky to have had and not many have the opportunity to experience all thanks to the USPA,” Lequerica added reflecting on the trip. “For the USA to finish second in such a prestigious tournament and women and young girls like myself to be playing in the polo mecca of the world sets a big stage for women in polo everywhere.”

After such an impressive inaugural tournament, the hope is that the field of competitors will only continue to grow when the tournament is played again in four years. “There were a lot of eyes watching and I hope that we can continue this momentum across the world,” Gandomcar-Sachs emphasized. “I will be forever grateful to the Federation of International Polo for taking on this huge task of supporting women's polo. I hope that in the next championship there will be a few other countries represented!”

Lily Lequerica, Audry Persano and Erica Gandomcar-Sachs celebrate the American team's historic achievement. ©Guadalupe Aizaga
Lily Lequerica, Audry Persano and Erica Gandomcar-Sachs celebrate the American team's historic achievement. ©Guadalupe Aizaga

*Audry Persano is a 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.

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