Drumcliffe and UVA Secure Solid Wins in Women’s Arena Handicap Semifinals
Drumcliffe’s Trio Delivers Textbook Polo with a Staggering 27-2 Victory
On Thursday, October 19, the Virginia Polo Center in Charlottesville, Virginia, welcomed female arena players to participate in the inaugural Women’s Arena Handicap. The purpose of this tournament, set at the 12- to 16-goal handicap level, is to encourage more women with a lower handicap rating to participate in arena play beyond their collegiate careers. Guardian Horse Bedding (GHB) comprised of Sheila Everett, Leslie Brooks, and Posey Obrecht took on Drumcliffe sisters Sophie and Maddie Grant, and *Julia Smith under the lights of the UVA polo training facility for the first semifinal of the night.
Although play began on the flat at a 16-goal handicap, the first few minutes proved to set the tone for the entire game, the women of Drumcliffe working together strategically as a well-oiled machine. Maddie Grant immediately demonstrated her skills with two quick goals, followed up by another two from teammate Julia Smith. As Guardian Horse Bedding continued to watch their opponents skyrocket onto the scoreboard, Posey Obrecht managed to make the first open goal Penalty 2 conversion. Drumcliffe continued to make one goal after another, utilizing a wide range of shots to end the first 7-1. The second was all about Drumcliffe, as the team’s harmony and technical playing ability was showcased each time all three women fell in line to execute the plays efficiently. With several beautiful neck shots, play ended at the half with a commanding 14-1 lead in favor of Drumcliffe.
Capitalizing on a Penalty 4 against Drumcliffe, GHB found their second and final goal of the game. Although several penalties were called, GHB missed many opportunities to convert. Utilizing the arena wall in many plays to act as a fourth player, Drumcliffe continued to aggressively stack their goals with strong ride-offs and excellent communication. The third chukker finished with the score set at 19-2. “It’s nice that with the new rules you can shoot from the 25-yard line and have it be two points,” Maddie Grant commented. “A two-pointer in this size arena would be a lot harder to make if it was from mid-field.”
Not wasting a second, even with such a dominating lead, Drumcliffe successfully racked up eight additional goals in the final chukker. Each time the ball was missed, another teammate of Drumcliffe was right behind and ready to finish the play. As the seconds ran out, Maddie Grant knocked the ball away from her team’s goal and the game concluded 27-2, securing Drumcliffe’s place as the first team in the Women’s Arena Handicap Final.
University of Virginia Conquers Berube Polo 20-4 for a Place in the Final
In the second semifinal of the evening, Lou Lopez, head coach of the University of Virginia (UVA) polo team, looked on as his women’s team defeated Berube Polo 20-4. As the UVA team is widely regarded as a powerhouse in intercollegiate polo, the women were well prepared to earn their spot against Drumcliffe.
With one goal on the board for Berube Polo due to handicap, UVA was eager to get ahead in the first chukker with three quick goals of their own. Playing a fast-paced game, Lauren Connors answered back with Berube Polo’s first goal of the night. The battle for control of the ball continued as teammates Katie Mitcham and Jessica Schmitt worked together to score yet another two goals for UVA before the end of the first. With UVA controlling the pace of the game, competition heated up and Mitcham continued to shine in the second, scoring four consecutive goals. Converting both a Penalty 2 and Penalty 5, Mitcham’s efforts brought the score at halftime 9-2, in favor of UVA.
As the second half began, Meghan Milligan played as the substitute for Connell Erb for the remaining two chukkers. Milligan jumped immediately into play with another goal for UVA, followed by goals from each of her teammates. Determined to make up some ground, Olivia Berube sent the ball between the goal posts just before the end of the third chukker, a 10-goal disparity still to make up going into the final period. UVA struck early once again in the fourth, bringing the score 14-3. Mitcham, prepared with an arsenal of shots, led the charge for victory as three goals were scored back-to-back before Molly Muedeking added one to Berube Polo’s tally. With less than 1:09 left to go, Mitcham nailed a two-point shot from the 25-yard line, totaling 10 goals. Berube Polo ran out of time and UVA claimed the second win of the night 20-4. “I thought tonight went really well,” Mitcham said. “We just went out there and played our best.”
UVA will challenge Drumcliffe on Saturday, October 21 in the Women’s Arena Handicap Final at 3:00pm ET. Local fans are encouraged to spectate and tailgate at the beautiful Virginia Polo Center arena. For more information, please visit vapolo.org. For those who cannot attend in-person, the final will be broadcast live on the USPA Polo Network on uspolo.org.
The women of Drumcliffe are looking forward to facing UVA during Sunday’s final. “We’re really excited,” Julia Smith said. “It’s going to be competitive, but we’re just going to play the way that we play and it’s going to be a great game for everyone to watch.”
*Julia Smith is a member of Team USPA. 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.