Written by Cody Hills, Daily Sun Staff Writer

Women’s Tournament Provides a Showcase for Female Players

It was all about the women and their skill Sunday, November 19, at The Villages Polo Club in The Villages, Florida. Despite several afternoon showers that drifted through the area, the two-day Arden’s Jeweler’s Women’s tournament wrapped up with two championship matches in two flights of play to close one of the premier female polo events in the country.

The ninth-annual installment featured 29 women playing across eight teams—four squads per flight—with eight matches, four chukkers each, held throughout the weekend. After preliminary contests Friday set the final day’s docket, City Fire defeated United Healthcare, 8-5, in the B-Flight final to open Sunday’s action, before Bendabout claimed an 8-1 victory over The Villages in the A-Flight finale.

Best Playing Pony Noche played by Gillian Johnston, owned by Francisco Bilbao, pictured with Alfredo Azaro and Arden's Fine Jewelers Kate and Blake Gallaher.
Best Playing Pony: Noche played by Gillian Johnston, owned by Francisco Bilbao, pictured with Alfredo Azaro and Arden’s Fine Jewelers representatives Kate and Blake Gallaher.

“There’s a lot of work that goes into getting all these women here, but it’s a lot of fun,” said Paige McCabe, director of The Villages Polo Club. “I think there’s a lot of women out there who might be intimidated to go out and play in a field of men—I know how it is. It’s hard. So when we can put together a weekend like this, where there’s a nurturing and hospitable environment for them to get out there and show what they have, that’s the best part for me, and that’s what makes it special.”

United Health Care's Morgan Bowman and Courtney Asdourian of City Fire make a dramatic hook.
UnitedHealthcare’s Morgan Bowman and Courtney Asdourian of City Fire make a dramatic hook.

UnitedHealthcare stormed out to a 4-0 lead in the first four minutes of play in the B-Flight title match, on the strength of two goals from Morgan Bowman. City Fire swiftly responded with four goals in the second chukker—three by Courtney Asdourian—to even the match at four-all at intermission. Asdourian then recorded two of her unit’s four second-half goals, as City Fire captured the B-Flight crown with an 8-5 victory.

Most Valuable Player Hope Arellano of Bendabout shoots on the nearside, The Villages Teresa Connelly in defense.
Most Valuable Player Hope Arellano of Bendabout shoots on the nearside, The Villages Teresa Connelly in defense.

In the A-Flight Finale, Bendabout staked to an early 3-0 advantage, thanks to three tallies from 14-year-old Hope Arellano midway through the second chukker. After a goal from Lauren Biddle brought The Villages unit back within 3-1 at halftime, Arellano again extended the lead with two more scoring strikes—plus one from teammate Anna Coscia—to put Bendabout up 6-1 through three chukkers and eventually coast to the A-Flight title with an 8-1 victory.

Lauren Biddle of The Villages sweeps the ball on the nearside during semifinal play against Arden's Fine Jewelers.
Lauren Biddle of The Villages sweeps the ball on the nearside during semifinal play against Arden’s Fine Jewelers.

The annual tournament promoting women in the sport was especially meaningful for women from three separate generations from one family spectating Sunday. Dolores Heisenberg, a seasonal resident of The Villages from Pennsylvania, brought along her daughter, Sharon, as well as her granddaughter, Hannah, 13, to the event. Heisenberg said the trip Sunday was not only about spending quality time, but teaching a lesson of empowerment to her granddaughter in the process.

Bendabout's Gillian Johnston and Hope Arellano all smiles after their win.
Bendabout’s Gillian Johnston and Hope Arellano all smiles after their win.

“We’ve come to the women’s tournament for the last three years, and I swear we leave with the same feeling each time,” Heisenberg said. “I think it sends a great message that women can do anything we set our minds to, and it’s the perfect example of that. There’s so many strong and independent women out here doing what they love to do, and that’s what it’s all about.”

All photos courtesy of ©David Boege.