hutting out Quiet Creek Farm with a decisive semifinal win 6.5-0 and eliminating the defending champions, Five String Farm (Ingrid Donnan, Cindy Halle, Anna Winslow-Palacios*, Clarissa Echezarreta) met Roseland Polo (Ali King, Liv Stringer Berube, Sophie Grant, Maddie Grant) in the Eastern Circuit Women’s Challenge Final on Sunday, July 11. Suffering a disappointing overtime loss in the 2020 final with Melinda’s Prospect Farm, Halle and Winslow-Palacios were especially driven to claim the title this year. Armed with a strong defensive strategy, Five String Farm took the early lead, performing from the penalty line to capture the trophy 7.5-6 and $1,500 in prize money at Maryland Polo Club (Jarretsville, Maryland).
“We supported each other really well and had a good game plan after watching what worked for Taylor Hill Farm in the semifinal. Whenever any of us would make a mistake our teammates kept it positive and looked ahead to the next play. Clarissa [Echezarreta] is so experienced and such an accurate hitter. Anna [Winslow-Palacios] communicated really well, has great anticipation and fast and handy horses and Ingrid [Donnan] did a great job going to the man and hustling to plays.” – Cindy Halle
Roseland Polo’s Maddie Grant playing the ball ahead of Five String Farm’s Cindy Halle.
Aside from the opening goal by Roseland Polo’s Maddie Grant, Five String Farm dominated the first half of play with accurate shooting, stellar defense and excellent communication. “Our plan going into the final was to play man-to-man defense, try to control the throw-ins and have organized set plays,” Halle shared. “All four Roseland Polo players were extremely well mounted so we had to keep them from making breakaways.” Receiving a half goal on handicap, Five String Farm established their lead in the first chukker with goals by Winslow-Palacios and Donnan. Unable to break through Five String Farm’s tight defense heading towards halftime, Roseland Polo was held off the scoreboard in the second. Claiming her first goal of the game, Echezarreta was followed closely by another penalty conversion by Winslow-Palacios in the second, giving Five String Farm the 4.5-1 advantage at halftime.
Roseland Polo’s Maddie Grant and Five String Farm’s Clarissa Echezarreta battling for possession of the ball.
“I believe my team’s advantage came from our diverse strengths and the ability to recognize and utilize those strengths on the field. We learned a lot about playing together during the semifinal and were able to carry that knowledge through the final.” – Ingrid Donnan
Continuing to extend Five String Farm’s lead, Echezarreta capitalized on a penalty conversion to open the third, but Roseland Polo unleashed an offensive team effort in the second half. Making spectacular runs and capturing three consecutive goals, the Grant sisters and Berube quickly narrowed the gap as Roseland Polo fought to make up for lost opportunities. Entering the final chukker with only a 1.5-goal lead, Five String Farm knew the final minutes would be crucial in preventing a last-minute upset. Proving her accuracy from the penalty line, Winslow-Palacios picked up her third penalty conversion, followed by another goal from Echezarreta. Competitive until the end, Roseland Polo quickly fired back with a pair of goals but they ultimately ran out of time, conceding the trophy to Five String Farm 7.5-6.
Five String Farm’s Clarissa Echezarreta hits a booming shot down field.
Given a total of $2,500 in tournament prize money as part of the USPA Polo Tournament Stimulus Package, the winners were awarded $1,500 while the runners up received $1,000.
“I always have fun playing this tournament, but I especially enjoyed playing with this team because we were very well-rounded and communicated effectively both on and off the field,” Winslow-Palacios shared. “We balanced our horses well and focused on being disciplined defensively and I think that set us up for success.”
Five String Farm’s Clarissa Echezarreta was awarded Most Valuable Player, presented by Trevor Niznik.
Coaching Winslow-Palacios in high school and playing in tournaments since then, Halle was thrilled to put together a talented team of women’s players for Five String Farm. “Clarissa [Echezarreta] and I have both been in polo for decades but were teammates for the first time last year and found that our strengths complement each other’s,” Halle said. “Anna [Winslow-Palacios] suggested that Ingrid [Donnan] join us as she is a really strong rider and has arena experience even though she hasn’t played as much on the grass.”
For her experience and accuracy, Clarissa Echezarreta was named Most Valuable Player. “Our main focus was to make passes to each other and to play as a team,” Echezarreta said. “Luckily our styles are compatible, and we complimented each other as teammates, trying our best to play our positions both offensively and defensively.”
Best Playing Pony was awarded to Donny, played by Maddie Grant in the fourth chukker. Presented by Trevor Niznik.
Best Playing Pony honors were awarded to Donny, an 8-year-old dark bay gelding played by Roseland Polo’s Maddie Grant in the fourth chukker. Purchased from Joe Wayne and Emily Barry in Sarasota, Florida, this past winter, Grant immediately fell in love with him after Joe lent her the gelding in a 10-goal tournament. “Donny gives me confidence to make any play I want and he quickly made his way to the top of my string,” Grant shared. “He has a great mouth, a comfortable stride and he also loves to run and rarely loses a ride off. Off the field he’s super sweet and loves to snuggle. He’s the total package and I’m so excited for our future!”
Capturing the trophy which slipped from her grasp in 2020, Halle enjoyed the weekend of open and fast high-level women’s polo. “I’ve played in this tournament many times and haven’t won it in quite a few years, although I’ve made the finals, so it was nice to get the win!” Halle exclaimed.
All photos courtesy of ©Tisa Della-Volpe.
*Anna Winslow-Palacios 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.