La Dolfina overcame all the adversities it faced in the 2020 season and came back to conquer the Argentine Open for the eighth consecutive year.
The Houston Polo Club in Houston, Texas, hosted nearly 30 teams, participating in one or more of five women’s tournaments played from Nov. 10-15. Women players from across the country filled the rosters, alongside Texas’ finest.
USPA Texas Women’s Open
The USPA Texas Women’s Open drew four teams and was played off over three days. Played at the 16- to 20-goal level, the two teams with the best records after two rounds moved on to the final. In round one, Polo Gear Coffee (Danielle Lussi, Dawn Jones, Clarissa Echezarreta, Tiffany Busch) defeated Lockton (Kendall Plank, Tiamo Hudspeth, Cecelia Cochran, Erica Gandomcar-Sachs), 5-3. In game two, Iconica (Madi Outhier, Maureen Brennan, Kylie Sheehan, Hope Arellano) got the best of BTA (Chrys Beal, Sheila Lequerica, KC Krueger, Izzy Parsons), 5½-4.
Polo Gear Coffee kept its momentum into the second round, narrowly edging BTA, 6-5, while Iconica beat Lockton, 5-3.
Three days later, Iconica, coached by Julio Arellano and four-time U.S. Women’s Open winner Kristy Outhier, faced Polo Gear Coffee, coached by Luis Echezarreta, in the final. Two of Polo Gear Coffee’s players (Jones and Busch) won the event last year. The 19-goal Iconica team began with a half-goal head start. Busch made a nice run early in the first but was stopped by Arellano. Play was choppy until Sheehan sent the ball toward goal. Busch defended but Sheehan kept fighting, riding her off, turning the ball and passing to Arellano for the first goal. Arellano, at 7 goals one of the highest-rated players in the tournament, busted out of the ensuing throw-in but couldn’t hold onto the ball.
Busch made another run to goal but Iconica’s defense was relentless and the ball went wide. Close play continued in the second. A Sheehan drive was stolen by Jones, who got the ball to the other side of the field. Arellano cleared the ball but couldn’t keep if from going over the back line. Busch hit the Penalty 6, sending it into a group of players until Lussi picked it up an put it through the posts. Busch sent the ball to the other side of the field, but it was turned around by Brennan. Jones got it on the rebound, sending it wide. Iconica got it back down by Polo Gear’s goal and Outhier eased it through the goal, ending the half with Iconica ahead 2½-1.
Iconica kept Polo Gear on its heels in the third. Jones came out on her paint mare, Pretty Bird Woman, who appeared in “The Homesman” a movie Tommy Lee Jones directed and starred in. Two minutes into the chukker, Brennan met the play, taking the ball along the boards. Outhier got her mallet on it, sending it up to Arellano for another goal. Arellano took the ball out of the line up with Echezarreta in pursuit. She swung through Echezarreta’s hook sending the ball forward but it went wide. Later, she intercepted a Polo Gear knock-in but was unable to turn it into a goal.
Busch continued to push hard, continually sending the ball forward, only to be shut down by Sheehan. Finally, Jones found an opening and managed to reach the goal to get closer, 3½-2. The teams continued to duel, but with time slipping away, Sheehan caught an umpire’s whistle close to the Iconica goal. After the umpires conferred, a throw-in was called, Iconica dodging a bullet. With just 38 seconds left, Jones was whistled, giving Iconica a Penalty 5. Arellano hit a nice long shot to Brennan but it was turned around. Lussi drove the ball toward goal in the closing seconds but was unable to seal the deal and Iconica held on for the win.
Dawn Jones was named MVP and two horses were honored: Picasita, played by Tiffany Busch and owned by Dawn Jones, was Best Playing Pony Pro; and Madi Outhier’s Law Man’s Dancer was both Best Playing Pony Amateur and AQHA Best Playing Pony.
Outhier, 18, not only took home several polo trophies for her and her ponies, the same day she took the Women’s Rodeo World Breakaway Champion title at the inaugural event in Arlington, Texas. Immediately after the game she hopped on a private jet to Arlington to compete. Her time of 2.05 seconds, earned her the title and $60,000. Reports called it the most groundbreaking performance of the event.
U.S. Open Women’s Handicap
A dozen teams lined up in the 8- to 12-goal U.S. Open Women’s Handicap, played from Nov. 11-14. It was played as a knock-out with losing teams dropping into a subsidiary tournament after the first round, with all preliminary games played in a round-robin format.
In the first round robin, Quiet Creek Farm (Josie Dorsey, Lily Lequerica, Hannah Reynolds, Olivia Reynolds) defeated Swoon/Bella Natura Medica (Isabel Artzer, Hannah Mitchell, Leigh Fulkerson, Izzy Parsons), 2½-1, and Woody’s Furs (Eloris Snyder, Grace Parker, Sarah Prinsloo, Caroline Anier), 1½-1.
The second round robin saw Villa Ecleto (Morgan Tennant, Katie George, Alyson Poor, Mia Bray) overcome Roseland Polo (Ali King, Paige Luplow, Carolyn Stimmel, Maddie Grant), 3½-2 and BCI/Sullivan Group (Cara Kennedy, Joanie Jackson, Grace Mudra, Athena Malin), 2½-2.
Aspen Snowmass (Morgan McBride, Stephanie Colburn, Anna Palacios, KC Krueger) dominated Game 3, topping Forty Flowers (Lara Semmelman, Keala Panzarini, Wendy Stover, Tiamo Hudspeth), 2-½, and Memorial Chiropractic/Rover’s Romphouse (Karrie Yager, Debbie Shelton, Danika Melnar, Kendall Plank), 4-1½.
The last round robin had Chandler Ranch (Roxy Riggs, Megan Flynn, Karen Reese, Jenny Vargas) best Maximo’s Polo Ponies/GK Farms (Jessica Keneally, Olivia Uechtritz, Carly Persano, Audry Persano), 4-1½, before falling to Straussfeld Realty (Kelly Coldiron, Kerstie Allen, Lara Straussfeld, Roxy Keyfauver), 1½-1. Maximo’s Polo Ponies/GK Farms shut out Straussfield Realty, 3-0. With each team suffering a loss, Chandler moved on with the most gross goals.
Villa Ecleto narrowly edged Quite Creek Farm, 4-3½, in the semifinals while Aspen Snowmass slipped Chandler Ranch, 4-3.
This set up a final between Aspen Snowmass and Villa Ecleto. Villa Ecleto began with a half-goal handicap and within a minute Anna Palacios added to it with a goal. The teams battled, volleying the ball back and forth. Villa Ecleto hit the ball over its own back line, giving Aspen a Penalty 6, but it was stopped before reaching the goal line. The battle continued, with Poor saving a ball on the goal line.
The teams each had chances from the 60-yard line but were unable to convert. Krueger knocked in, passing to McBride who moved it down field before Krueger regained it, running to goal for a 2-½ lead at the end of the first chukker. It was all defense in the second, with Bray’s Penalty 3 conversion the only tally of the chukker, ending the half, 2-1½. Aspen had several good drives, but was unlucky around the goal.
A defensive battle in the third, neither team could score until Bray powered ahead, scoring back-to-back goals with just two minutes left for the 2-3½ lead. With 40 seconds on the clock, in a rare occurrence, teams had to wait for a cat to get off the field before finishing out the chukker.
A determined Aspen rallied in the final chukker. Krueger made a run, slammed on the brakes while everyone ran past her, got settled and found the target for the first time since the first chukker to cut the deficit to a half-goal with five minutes left. Palacios drove to goal but the ball shot wide. At the 3 minute mark, Krueger couldn’t connect on a Penalty 3 but made up for it, getting the ball close to goal with Colburn finishing it up to give Aspen the lead. Bray had a shot but it was deflected. Aspen was awarded a Penalty 6 with just 40 seconds on the clock, but Krueger’s horse didn’t help her and the ball went wide. Villa Ecleto was unable to respond and Aspen Snowmass had the 4-3½ win.
KC Krueger was named MVP; Ignacio Saenz’s Chica Buena, played by Mia Bray, was Best Playing Pony Pro; Vaughn Miller Jr.’s Payasa, played by Morgan McBride, was Best Playing Pony amateur and Stephanie Colburn’s Boon Sugar Whiz was AQHA Best Playing Pony.
In the consolation final, Chandler Ranch edged Quite Creek Farm, 7-6, with it being decided by a shootout. In the subsidiary final, Swoon/Bella Natura Medical got the best of Roseland Polo in a tight 7½ -7 match.
The same day, Texas SBA (Alexis Barker, Cindy Madole, Sammy Ryan, Kim Hillin) Shut out both Patagonia Grill (Liz Lary, Michelle Agrons, Michelle Lawson, Sylvia Kampshoff), 2-0, and Sands Farm (Allee Crosby, Clare Bogart, Gemma Allman, Lucy Bailey), 1-0, in the final of the Farish Cup. All the goals were penalty conversions. Seven teams played off with winners of three matches, one a round robin, playing off in the final round robin. Patagonia Grill came in second after shutting out Sands Farm, 4-0.
Sylvia Kampshoff was MVP and Mark Prinsloo’s Peligro, played by Allee Crosby, was Best Playing Pony.
The Bayou City Cup Invitational was also played, with four teams playing off. Frio Ice Chests (Freida Nicole Cooney, Leigh Hemphill-Chrisinger, Rachel Lippoldt) advanced to the final after shutting down Downtown Rotary Club (Chrsitine Laborde/Quinn van der Hoeven, Hillary Munro, Joanie Jackson), 3-0. On the other side, St. Regis Houston (Sam Danahy, Wendy Safchik, Audry Persano) slipped past Bemer (Gaylyn Frantz, Julie Rae, Carly Persano), 2-1, to advance.
Frio Ice Chests froze out St. Regis Houston, 3-0, for the title. Leigh Hemphill-Chrisinger was MVP and Mark Prinsloo’s Joe, played by Gaylyn Frantz, was Best Playing Pony.
In the consolation, Bemer edged Downtown Rotary Club, 2-1.
The final event of the women’s extravaganza was the Ladies’ Junior Invitational. Two teams played off. JMcLaughlin (Madi Burba, Quinn van der Hoven, Joanie Jackson) and Luxury Event Trailers (Mila Cocco, Caroline Karvelsson, Lily Lequerica) tied, 2-2, and that’s how they decided to leave it. Caroline Karvelsson was MVP and Mark Prinsloo’s Acapulco, played by Madi Burba, was Best Playing Pony.