PRICE OF SILVER: Rocking P nabs title in U.S. Women’s Open

Last year’s runner-up, Rocking P overcame Midland Polo Club in the final of the U.S. Open Women’s Polo Championship at Tonkawa in Brookshire, Texas, Nov. 11.

Significant rainfall led to the U.S. Open Women’s Handicap (played simultaneously) to be moved to the arena, while Open Championship games were played on back-to-back days with remarkable upsets in preliminary play.

The week was a whirlwind of unexpected activity and the superbly staffed and well-organized Houston Polo Club pulled off an outstanding tournament, each game bringing forth fast, competitive polo at the highest level.

Women's Open  
BTA:
Chrys Beal
KC Krueger
Nina Clarkin
Lucy Coddington
26
3
7
10
6
 
Midland:
Molly Smith
Tiamo Hudspeth Dayelle Fargey Isabelle Parsons
20
3
5
6
6
 
Rocking P.:
Courtney Price/
Bridget Price
Lottie Lamacraft
Hazel Jackson
Tiva Gross
22/23
2/
3
5
9
6
 
San Saba:
Dawn Jones
Mia Bray
Sarah Wiseman
Lia Salvo
26
6
4
8
8
 
Hungry for a tournament win after losing in overtime to San Saba in 2017, Courtney and Bridget Price’s Rocking P team worked as a well-oiled machine to dominate the Women’s Open final 10-2 after four chukkers of commanding play.

Midland (Molly Smith, Tiamo Hudspeth, Dayelle Fargey, Izzy Parsons) was looking forward to the rematch after falling to Rocking P (Prices, Tia Gross, Lara Lamacraft, Hazel Jackson), 6-1, in the opening match.

With both teams willing to lay it all on the line, players arrived to the field slightly overzealous, leading to fouls early in the first chukker. Rocking P’s Hazel Jackson quickly capitalized on a Midland error, converting the ensuing penalty, followed closely by a field goal from teammate Lottie Lamacraft for an early lead. Midland Polo Club’s efforts to score fell short, resulting in a shutout first chukker.

“We played the same team before and [didn’t want] to come in underestimating them,” said Jackson. “We saw them play against Nina [Clarkin] the other day and they were phenomenal. We watched back their games, and came in super prepared.”

Midland Polo Club managed one goal in the remainder of the first half off the mallet of Tiamo Hudspeth, but an unstoppable Jackson continued to shoot on goal, Rocking P leading the charge at halftime 4-1. Playing in the first half and splitting a man with her sister Courtney, 15-year-old Bridget Price, last year’s Handicap champion, remarked on her first Open experience. “It was definitely faster and so exciting to play. There was more man-to-man contact and it’s more open,” she explained.

Plays and strategies were discussed during the divot stomp and, hungry for a comeback, Midland Polo Club reorganized its team under the direction of coach Corky Linfoot. Izzy Parsons worked hard to create goal shot opportunities for her team, but Midland Polo Club struggled to hold back Rocking P’s Jackson, as she hammered in three consecutive shots.

“We were playing some really clean, classic polo, going in pairs. That was really our game plan going in at the beginning, play a lot of defense so we could open up the field and let Hazel play her game,” said Courtney Price.

The gap widened though Midland Polo Club put up a solid fight until the bitter end. It was unable to overtake the seasoned Rocking P team. Hudspeth managed one more goal for her team, a neckshot off grey mare Pringa before the final horn sounded, signaling Rocking P’s 10-2 victory.

Rocking P’s Tiva Gross was happy with her first year of Women’s Open competition. “It’s a huge honor. I’ve been trying to come here for many years and to finally get a chance, and win, is an added bonus,” she said after the game. “I had a great team, they made it an absolute pleasure, it was so fun. Some great opposition too, I don’t think the score really reflected how well they played.”

Hazel Jackson was awarded Most Valuable Player, contributing seven of her team’s 10 goals on the day. “I love the team I chose,” exclaimed Jackson. “Karl [Price] gave me the mission of finding our team and I am so pleased I chose these girls. They are massive team players, they always take one for each other and we’ve had a super fun week as well.”

Her third chukker chestnut mare, Maxima, owned by Marcos Villanueva, was presented with the Professional Best Playing Pony blanket. Amateur Best Playing Pony honors were presented to Emma, owned by the Price family and ridden by Courtney Price in the fourth chukker. “She was a little machine today,” said Price. “She was giving it her all—we were flying.”

The tournament got under way on Nov. 6 with BTA, armed with the formidable English 10-goaler Nina Clarkin, challenging the women of San Saba. Firing hard on its opponents’ goal posts, BTA maintained the lead throughout four chukkers to claim the first win of the day, 7-4.

In the next match, Rocking P met Midland Polo Club. Rocking P was eager to start off solid with its newest team member, Kenyan 6-goaler Tiva Gross. Three unanswered Rocking P goals in the first chukker set the tone for the remainder of the game, Midland Polo Club adding only one to the scoreboard off the mallet of Molly Smith. Rocking P players combined for an additional three goals to finish the day strong, 6-1.

The next day, Rocking P faced off against rival San Saba, eager for redemption after suffering a disappointing overtime loss in last year’s final. A Penalty 3 conversion from San Saba’s Lia Salvo early in the first was the only goal to make it on the board before a unfortunate trip by her horse during play sidelined her from continuing. Only half a chukker played and 3:04 remaining in the first, San Saba decided to forfeit. Rocking P advanced with a 2-0 record.

BTA then met Midland Polo Club for the other final spot against Rocking P. BTA’s Lucy Coddington put the first tally on the board, the only goal in the first half, as BTA led 1-0 after two chukkers.

A double yellow called on a dangerous riding play at the top of the third sat Clarkin out for two minutes, providing Midland with a pivotal opportunity for two penalty conversions. Dayelle Fargey and Smith perfectly executed both penalties to gain the lead.

The teams traded goals once more in the third to end the chukker, 3-2, Midland holding a narrow advantage. BTA equalized the score but an offensive push by Midland Polo Club enabled Izzy Parsons to score back-to-back goals, sealing the 5-3 win.

The highest level of women’s polo in the country, teams were rapidly formulating their final strategies following their qualifying matches.

The women’s Open has been played at Houston for the past eight years. It will move to International Polo Club in Wellington, Florida, in 2019 and will be played in the spring rather than the fall.

In the U.S. Open Women’s Handicap, nine teams filled t he roster in the singleelimination tournament. With the rain forcing the matches to be played in the arena, four-man teams were paired down to t hree-man teams. The change meant the tournament no longer qualified as a USPA event.

The first-round games were played on Nov. 7 wit h Stick and Ball topping Icon Global 10-8; Sullivan Group topping Texas Monthly 10-6; EEW Steel Trading defeating Bearsden 15-6; and Woody’s Furs edging W-S Horse Farm 7-1 and Listo Polo/Kanthaka 3½-2 in a round robin.

In the semifinals played two days later, EEW Steel Trading defeated Stick & Ball 10-8 and Sullivan Group edged Woody’s Furs 14-13 in a shootout.

In the final, Sullivan Group (Joanie Jackson, Marissa Wells, Kelly Wells, Megan Rahlfs) got the best of EEW Steel Trading (Roxy Mounter, Cara Kennedy, Kendall Plank, Hazel Jack son), 13-11. The mot her-daughter duo of Kelly and Marissa Wells were fresh off their U.S. Women’s Arena Open victory. Marissa Wells was named MVP and Nikita, owned by Nick Cifuni and played by Marissa Wells was Best Playing Pony professional. Best Playing Pony amateur went to Jackie, owned and played by Megan Rahlfs. AQHA Best Playing Pony awards went to Cash, owned and played by Carol Farnsworth and Taxi, owned and played by Kendall Plank.

In the subsidiary semifinals, Listo Polo/Kanthaka defeated Icon Global 13-4 and Texas Monthly defeated Bearsden 8-6 and W-S Horse Farm 6-1½. In the subsidiary final, Listo Polo/Kanthaka defeated Texas Monthly 11-7.

-- United States Polo Association, Photos by Kaylee Wroe

 

 

 

 

 
 
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