Both teams winning their first game, Mid-State Roofing and Crossfit El Cid entered a virtual final on the third and final day of round-robin competition on Sunday, October 13, at the Aiken Polo Club in Aiken, South Carolina. Dominating just as they had previously, Mid-State Roofing activated a strong offensive strategy to claim a 2-0 record and earn the Southeastern Circuit Women’s Challenge title.
“For both the A flight and the B flight I was lucky enough to play with some awesome up-and-coming players. Most of my teammates were 16 years old and under so it’s really cool to see so many young and talented women in Aiken. Our team concentrated on playing our game, playing with confidence and using every player effectively.” – Kylie Sheehan*
Starting off the tournament on Wednesday, October 9, Crossfit El Cid and Aiken Youth Polo went head to head, the loser automatically guaranteed a place in the second game. Earning a goal on handicap, Crossfit El Cid matched their opponents goal for goal to enter halftime 3-all. Shut out in the third chukker, Aiken Youth Polo lost a valuable opportunity to put goals on the scoreboard, ultimately costing them the game and enabling Crossfit El Cid to win by a narrow margin 6-5.
Hope Arellano carries the ball in front of Crossfit El Cid defenders.
Meeting Aiken Youth Polo on Friday, October 11, Mid-State Roofing established themselves with undeniable intensity in the first half, claiming a significant 6-1 lead by halftime. Preventing the team in blue from making their comeback happen, Mid-State Roofing silenced them again in the fourth chukker to triple the score 9-3 and eliminate their competitors from the tournament.
Fresh off a victory, Mid-State Roofing carried their momentum and power into the final matchup, with every player contributing to the scoreboard. Striking two consecutive goals to open the first, Hope Arellano would play a crucial part in executing her team’s game plan in the first half. Countering with a Penalty 2 conversion of her own, Jenna Davis leveled the score for Crossfit El Cid, who earned an automatic goal on handicap. Maneuvering the ball in and out of defenders, Arellano played with finesse in the second to add three field goals to the tally. Doubling the scoring with only a single Penalty 4 conversion off the mallet of Malia Bryan, Mid-State Roofing continued to hold onto the lead at halftime 6-3.
Most Valuable Player Malia Bryan controls the ball with Reagan Leitner in pursuit.
Although receiving an automatic Penalty 1 goal at the beginning of the second half, Crossfit El Cid fell further behind as Mid-State Roofing remained disciplined and effective in their positions to score another three goals. Landing on the scoreboard for the first time in the third, Kylie Sheehan successfully converted a Penalty 3 and quickly followed it up with a field goal. Entering the fourth chukker with an extended lead 9-4, Mid-State Roofing felt confident that they could maintain the upper hand and sweep the win. Mirroring each other, twin sisters Reagan and Robyn Leitner each added a goal apiece in succession, with all players now represented in the scoring. Claiming the first and only field goal for Crossfit El Cid, Bryan’s consistent effort could not hold up against the offensive machine who took the trophy with a decisive 11-5 win.
Playing with her sister, Reagan Leitner revealed the pair works best when they are playing on the same team. “Our strategy in the second game was to have our number four sit deep in the back and number three be up ahead, leaving the one and two in the middle,” Reagan Leitner said. “What worked really well for us was our communication and always encouraging each other,” Robyn Leitner echoed.
Robyn Leitner riding Best Playing Pony, Miley.
Most Valuable Player was awarded to Crossfit El Cid’s Malia Bryan, who previously won the tournament and Most Valuable Player award in 2016 with Hyde Park/Starfish. “I think the tournament was a good way to draw women players to Aiken and showcase all the talent that is here; the last game was a tough and competitive one,” Bryan commented. “There are a lot of good up-and-coming players that competed yesterday and throughout this week and I have a feeling we will be seeing a lot more of them in the future.”
Best Playing Pony honors were presented to Miley, a 7-year-old mare owned and played by Robyn Leitner in the fourth chukker. Purchased a little over a year ago, Leitner bought Miley from Ben and Jewel Gregonza. “She’s very handy and always pays attention to me, waiting on me to tell her what to do next,” Leitner said. “She never doubts what I ask of her and loves the game of polo just as much as I do.”
Best Playing Pony, Miley, played by Robyn Leitner, presented by Liv Stringer.
Having played with the Leitner twins in many mixed games previously, U.S. Polo Assn. Global Brand Ambassador Hope Arellano attributes her team’s strong chemistry on the field to their close relationship. “I think what has definitely helped us is that we know each other very well,” Arellano said. “The Leitner twins are great players and I can’t wait to see what their future holds. Kylie [Sheehan] is also a phenomenal teammate so it’s always so much fun for me when you get to play with friends!”
Photos courtesy of ©Pam Gleason
*Kylie Sheehan is a Team USPA alumna.
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.