Ace Sportswear and Bad Ass Polo Will Face off in Women’s Arena Open Final
On Saturday, October 20, four teams met at the Virginia Polo Center in Charlottesville, Virginia, for the Women’s Arena Open Semifinals. National Intercollegiate Championship winners, high-goal players and young up-and-coming competitors gathered for a night of arena polo played at the 18- to 22-goal level. East Coast battled West Coast in the first semifinal matchup ending in a hard-fought win for the eastern trio of Bad Ass Polo. The second semifinal game provided spectators with open, fast-paced polo between former college rivals and present day friends resulting in a run-away win for Ace Sportswear.
Bad Ass Polo Squeak Past Hawaii Polo Life 12-11
Hawaii Polo Life (HPL) competitors Danielle Travis, Megan Judge and Kirsten Ludwig arrived to the semifinal after a long journey from California and Hawaii boasting a 20-goal team handicap. They were met by Bad Ass Polo (BAP) players Olivia Berube, Maddie Grant and Posey Obrecht carrying an 18-goal team handicap.
The game started out with several fouls called in the first chukker of play. HPL’s 8-goaler Travis managed to capitalize on two scoring opportunities combined with two skilled goals from Ludwig. Although unable to capitalize on any field goal opportunities, BAP made the most out of the foul-riddled chukker, converting two penalties to trail by two, 4-2. Ludwig continued her scoring streak in the second with three consecutive goals, giving HPL a solid lead 7-2. Despite the scoreboard, BAP fought every second and their work paid off closing the gap on their opponents 7-5 at the half.
A reorganized BAP returned to the field in the third. Grant quickly stole the ball out of the bowl-in on a breakaway to goal. With Ludwig close on her hip, she carefully walked the ball in on chestnut mare Juliet, bringing BAP within sights of a tie. HPL mounted a counter attack with a nearside carry by Ludwig finished off by Travis to maintain the spread, 8-6. BAP took control of the remainder of the chukker holding HPL to only one pony goal as Berube sunk in her first of the day and Grant equalized the score 9-all going into the fourth. “We felt good after equalizing the score,” said Obrecht. “After the first half we were a bit nervous about going into the second, but we kept up with them in the third, and really got it together in the fourth. We are lucky to have all been able to contribute to the score.”
With one chukker left, fierce competition ensued. Tensions were high as players fought for the chance to play in Sunday’s final. Travis made her fifth goal of the day on a Penalty 3 conversion. Judge quickly followed with a field goal to pull HPL ahead by two 11-9. As the minutes ticked down, Berube and Obrecht each contributed to the scoreboard, equalizing the game once again.
Just over 33 seconds left on the clock, Grant carried the ball towards BAP’s goal. A miscalculated shot went high and out of the arena. Now, only 26 seconds left in the game, a throw in was held at the 15-yard line. In the remaining few seconds of play, Berube managed to execute an accurate backshot that bounced of an opposing player’s mallet and into goal. A fight to the finish Bad Ass Polo claimed the first position in the Women’s Arena Open Final 12-11. “I’m excited to be playing with Olivia and Posey as teammates,” said Grant. “I think the game was a bit touch-and-go at times today, but overall it was a good game for us. We have room for improvement and are looking forward to the final on Sunday.”
While disappointed about the outcome of the match, HPL’s Travis beamed about the experience. “We are so proud of ourselves coming out here. Traveling as far as we did, playing on horses we’ve never played, also in an arena most of us had never played in, and playing how we did against some awesome women. We are a great team and just super stoked to be a part of this event.”
Ace Sportswear Seizes Commanding Win Over Goose Creek 15-3
In a game to determine who would meet Bad Ass Polo in the Women’s Arena Open Final, 18-goal Goose Creek (Maureen Brennan, Katie Mitcham and Josie Vidic) faced off against opponents Julia Smith*, Demitra Hajimihalis and Anna Winslow* of Ace Sportswear handicapped at 20-goals.
Playing under the lights of the Virginia Polo Center, the second semifinal of the day began much differently than the first. Quick, open polo was displayed in a game that showcased the agility of both the horses and riders. Smith riding chestnut gelding Timone opened up the scoring for Ace Sportswear with three consecutive goals. Goose Creek was awarded a Penalty 3 that Mitcham easily converted. Ace Sportswear effectively shut out Goose Creek for the remainder of the first half as powerhouse Smith added an additional three goals and Winslow contributed one to bring the score 7-1 at the half. Although the score margin was wide, the play did not suffer. Goose Creek stuck to their opponents like glue, providing a great game for all in attendance.
Despite attempts on goal at the start of the third, Goose Creek was unable to convert. The disciplined team of Ace Sportswear confidently went to the man, used the wall to control the ball and expertly executed team plays. Winslow stepped up in the third when it came time to take a penalty shot, sending it in to goal. “We went into this game with the plan that whoever is confident at the time and is hitting well will take the penalty shots,” said Winslow. “We all know that we can convert them, so it is usually a spur of the moment decision for us.” A great team play by Goose Creek resulted in their second goal of the day from Mitcham. The remainder of the third and majority of the fourth played out much like the first half. Smith continued to dominate with assists from Winslow and Hajimihalis combining for an impressive five goals. “I think that as far as teamwork goes, how your team interacts off the field really affects how you play on the field,” said Smith. “We are all friends, we have all competed with and against each other. It’s a lot of fun when you know that you have two great people backing you up.” Despite the 14-2 score, Goose Creek was prepared to give it their all. Maureen Brennan drove a shot into goal at the tail end of the fourth, later answered by a final goal by Smith, giving her 11 goals on the day and Ace Sportswear the 15-3 victory.
The Women’s Arena Open Final will take place Sunday, October 22 at 12:00pm ET at the Virginia Polo Center. 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.
*Julia Smith and Anna Winslow are members 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.