WELLINGTON, January 13, 2022—Stage Hill opened the Polo School Grand Champions Women‘s League season in style Wednesday at Santa Rita Polo Farm.

Stage Hill (Hope Arellano, 8, Rileigh Tibbottt, 1, Josephine Gianicco, 2, Alyson Poor, 4, Ava Nunez, 1) defeated CrossFit El Cid (Malicia von Falkenhausen, 2, Ava Hinkson, 1, Pam Flanagan, 4, Cecilia Cochran, 5, Cecily Coors, 0), 9-5, in a hardfought game.

With ten players on two teams, players of all ages and playing ability were able to sub in and out of the five-chukker game.

The Polo School Grand Champions Women‘s League kicked off its sixth year with a competitive game.

„It was great,“ said league co-founder Alina Carta. „Everybody just had a ball. The field was amazing. I think all the girls had a great time. The game was competitive. Everyone was moving.“

The chase is on with Ava Nunez of Stage Hill leading the way.

The game was close for the first two chukkers with CrossFit El Cid leading 2-1 after the opening chukker. Poor converted two 30-yard penalties in the second chukker to enable Stage Hill to tie the game at 3-3. 

Arellano scored two goals and Poor added one to enable Stage Hill to outscore CrossFit El Cid, 3-0, to pull away for a 6-3 lead after three chukkers. Stage Hill never trailed after that.

Arellano and Poor shared game-high scoring honors, each with four goals, for Stage Hill. Cochran led scoring for CrossFit El Cid with two goals.

Alyson Poor of Stage Hill races downfield for the ball.

„It was fun,“ Poor said. „I really enjoy playing in the women‘s league. The teams are constantly changing so you get to play with all different players. 

„It gives us the opportunity to play,“ Poor said. „Not a lot of us can afford to go out and play in the mixed tournaments. Melissa makes it affordable for us so we can come out and play on a nice field and play with the other women and just have a really good time.“

Cecilia Cochran of CrossFit El Cid defends Ava Nunez.

Poor said the women‘s league „is pretty crucial“ for the growth of women‘s polo. 

„We get to go out and play in some tournaments here and there, but we don‘t necessarily have a place where we all can all practice and play together. Women‘s polo is so different from mixed in a sense. This gives us the opportunity to practice every position and we all take turns taking penalties and knock-ins. You get to play every aspect of every position if you want to. It really improves your game a lot. Having this once a week is amazing.“  

Pamela Flanagan of CrossFit El Cid works the near side in a crowd.

Poor, who has been sponsored in past years, hopes to pick up a sponsor to enable her to play the entire league season. She was one of four players awarded a grant from the Polo School to play for one month in the league.

Poor, 32, a veteran of more than 20 years of playing polo, was a member of the first-ever winning team of the Women‘s East Coast Open along with Cindy Halle, Dawn Jones and Anna Winslow.

Arellano, 18, was coming off her first Argentine season. She was third in the Women‘s Argentine Open with La Irenita Polo and competed in the first Women‘s Copa de las Naciones.

Josephine Giannico of Stage Hill is closely defended by Cecilia Cochran.

The women‘s league is for all levels of playing ability and will be held every Wednesday at 10 a.m. through April. 

The only full-time weekly women‘s polo league in the world was created by  Carta, a polo pioneer and one of the highest ranked women in the U.S. in the 1980s, and Melissa Ganzi, Grand Champions Polo Club President, World Polo League co-founder and avid player. Ganzi is the first woman in history to win the prestigious 35th Snow Polo World Cup St. Moritz and returns to Switzerland to compete Jan. 28-30.

Lucas Arellano is not only a supportive big brother but spare holder for Hope Arellano.

All team entry fees benefit The Polo School, a stand-alone USPA-sanctioned club. The Polo School offers lessons to men, women and children of all ages and ability levels and offers scholarships.

The league, along with the March 30-April 3 WCT Finals at Grand Champions, honors Sunny Hale, the all-time greatest women‘s polo player and Hall of Famer. 

Grand Champions, the nation‘s largest polo club coming off its most successful fall season, hopes to build off that success when it hosts 23 tournaments from January through April.

Alyson Poor of Stage Hill battles for the ball.

The 26-goal World Polo League, co-founded by Marc and Melissa Ganzi, returns for a fourth season. The All-Star Challenge opens the high goal season Feb. 4-20 followed by the Tommy Hitchcock Legacy Memorial, Feb. 16-27; Founders Cup, Feb. 23-March 13; Palm Beach Open, March 9-27; Triple Crown of Polo, March 23-April 16 and Beach Polo World Cup Miami Beach, April 22-24.

The high goal club tournaments will feature the Sterling Cup, $100,000 World Cup and Santa Rita Abierto.

Hope Arellano of Stage Hill working the ball downfield.

The 16-goal league play includes the Grand Champions Cup, Feb. 14-March 5; Power Horse Invitational, March 8-26; and Pedro Morrison Memorial, March 29-April 16.

The 12-goal league schedule is the Limited Edition 12-Goal Series, Jan. 25-Feb. 12; Sieber Memorial Trophy, Feb. 15-March 5; $50,000 National 12-Goal, Feb. 16-27; and Top Pony 12-Goal, March 8-26.

The 8-goal tournament lineup is the Aspen Valley Cup, Jan. 18-30; Top Pony 8-Goal, Feb. 15-March 5; and Limited Edition 8-Goal, March 8-26.

The 6-goal schedule features the Metropolitan Cup, Jan. 25-Feb. 12; Halo Polo Trophy, Feb. 15-March 5; and Madelon Bourdieu Memorial, March 8-26.

Alyson Poor of Stage Hill works the ball with Pamela Flanagan defending.

Grand Champions has also added Sunset Chukkers and Cocktails, presented by Seminole Casino Coconut Creek and held Tuesday late afternoon on Field One for players and guests. 

Grand Champions Polo Club and Santa Rita Polo Farm is the largest and most unique private 100-acre polo facility in Wellington with 120 stalls in several self-contained barns, exercise track, five climate-controlled tack rooms, vet room, staff quarters, guest house and polo fields with state-of-the-art underground irrigation and stick-and-ball fields.

Hope Arellano of Stage Hill hits a near side shot past defender.

During fall, winter and spring seasons, Grand Champions Polo Club, the nation‘s largest club with 13 well-manicured, world-class fields at GCPC and Santa Rita Polo Farm, hosts polo tournaments ranging from six to 26-goal including the 26-goal World Polo League in addition to special events. 

The Polo School operates in Wellington January through May and September through November. For more information on the Fall Leagues or Polo School contact Director of Operations Juan Bollini at  561-346-1099.

The horses are getting ready for the Polo School Grand Champions Women‘s League season-opener.

Grand Champions Polo Club caters to men, women and youth polo players at all levels. Its‘ expert staff can customize a complete playing experience including horses, pros and certified umpires in addition to lessons and practice sessions as part of its‘ Polo On Demand program, the only polo club in the U.S. to offer the unique program.

By Sharon Robb
Photos by Candace Ferreira