A competitive Argentine Women’s Open concluded Saturday, December 11, at Palermo with American Hope Arellano* helping La Irenita Libra Seguros reach a subsidiary final victory. Arellano’s celebration quickly turned back to focus on the field however, as she prepared for the Women’s Copa de las Naciones. Featuring three nations, USA, Argentina and England, the rosters showcased six players from the Argentine Women’s Open competing for the title.
“To play for your country, with great friends, and in Palermo – I don’t think you can ask for more!” – Hope Arellano
Played in a round-robin format with three games over three days each consisting of eight-chukkers of four and a half minutes, the competition began on Monday, December 13, with 23-goal USA (Dawn Jones, Maddie Grant, Hope Arellano, Kylie Sheehan*) facing 22-goal England (Georgie Cunningham, Stephanie Haverhals, Milly Hine, Hazel Jackson). While Meghan Gracida was on the original roster, she unfortunately suffered a broken collar bone the day before competition and was substituted by alternate Maddie Grant.
Sharing her thoughts on the USA roster Arellano noted, “I’ve played with Kylie [Sheehan] and Dawn [Jones] many times before, which is always helpful.” Sheehan added, “it was [thrilling] to get to play with Dawn Jones, who has a wealth of experience in women’s polo. She’s played here in Argentina many times. On the other hand, to play with two up-and-comers, Maddie Grant and Hope Arellano, our team had both ends of the spectrum. It was a pleasure to play with everybody. I hope I get to do it again soon.”
USA’s Hope Arellano carries the ball on the nearside at full speed, Argentina’s Azucena Uranga on her hip.
In preparation for the Copa de las Naciones, Matías Magrini, horse provider for three of the American players, held practices for two weeks to prepare for the international challenge ahead. “I think that got us up to speed,” said Sheehan. “Even though we had not all been playing in women’s tournaments in Argentina before this competition, those practices helped us get into the first game. The speed was competitive. We felt well prepared and well mounted,” Sheehan continued.
A close opening game showcased the narrow gap between the two teams. England’s half-goal advantage on handicap continued to make a difference however, and England captured the 8.5-7 victory. USA jumped back into play on Tuesday, December 14, against 22-goal host country Argentina (Paulina Vasquetto, Azucena Uranga, Milagros “Milli” Sánchez, Lía Salvo), where another hard-fought matched ended in favor of Argentina 9.5-7.
USA’s Dawn Jones on a breakaway.
Previously representing USA abroad in Europe and a 2021 U.S. Open Women’s Polo Championship® winner, this was Sheehan’s first Argentine tournament polo. Proud of USA’s performance, Sheehan reflected, “it was a huge honor and felt unreal to get to start off my Argentine tournament polo experience at Palermo getting to represent the USA! We showed we were up to that level and could play against many women that had just competed in the best women’s polo in the world. It has inspired me to try and play in the Women’s Argentine Open and other competitive Argentine tournaments, and also bring that level of women’s polo back to the United States.” Aiding a competitive fire, Sheehan is confident in the future of USA’s representation in women’s polo internationally, saying, “there are so many talented American women’s players. The more experiences we can get like this the better our polo will be.”
USA’s Maddie Grant prepares for a booming shot down field, Argentina’s Paulina Vasquetto hustling to defend.
Cecelia Cochran, who helped to organize the USA team on behalf of the USPA’s International Committee, beamed with pride at USA’s final result, “the three young players on the team improved their polo in a very short period of time. Kylie [Sheehan] and Maddie [Grant] for the two weeks they were there, and Hope [Arellano] while she was competing in the Women’s Argentine Open beforehand. For the team to be able to stay with Matias Magrini and ride twice a day and practice was phenomenal. Hope [Arellano] is competing on the same level as Hazel Jackson and Lía Salvo now.”
“I am very proud of these women,” Cochrane continued. “Especially since they played against five women who played in the Women’s Argentine Open. It’s the future of women’s polo and polo in general.” Extending gratitude to the USPA and Matías Magrini for providing horses, Cochrane added, “it took a village, [thank you] to Megan Gracida, who is a large part of this team and Memo Gracida for coaching prior to Megan’s injury.”
USA’s Kylie Sheehan working defense on England’s Hazel Jackson.
“I felt we were really competitive against England and Argentina. We were right in there, which is a great sign for American polo on the global stage. It made us hungrier to work at it and be even more competitive when we come back.” – Kylie Sheehan
Reflecting on her experience in the Women’s Nations Cup Arellano expressed, “it was a super fun team to be a part of! Thankfully we were able to be so well mounted by Matías Magrini. To have Matías Magrini, Guillermo Caset Sr. and my dad [Julio Arellano] helping us out was just incredible.”
Similarly, a grateful Sheehan stated, “I can’t thank the USPA enough. Cecelia Cochran and Matias Magrini who provided horses. All the efforts of my teammates, Dawn Jones, Maddie Grant, Hope Arellano and Megan Gracida who unfortunately broke her collarbone before she was able to play. Thank you also to Memo Gracida and Julio Arellano. It was a huge honor and really amazing to play with and against such talented women’s players and especially inspiring that we played against two of the three 10-goalers in the world right now.”
“I feel like I’ve learned so much,” Arellano continued. “To play for your country, with great friends, and in Palermo – I don’t think you can ask for more!”
Argentina and England will face-off in the final of the Women’s Copa de las Naciones on Thursday, December 16.
USA was coached by Hope Arellano’s father, Julio Arellano.
Argentina (22): Paulina Vasquetto 0, Azucena Uranga 5, Milagros Sánchez 7, Lía Salvo 10.
England (22): Georgie Cunningham 1, Stephanie Haverhals 4, Milly Hine 7, Hazel Jackson 10.
USA (23): Dawn Jones 6, Maddie Grant 5, Hope Arellano 7, Kylie Sheenan 5.
*Hope Arellano is an Active Member of Team USPA and Kylie Sheehan is 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.
All photos courtesy of ©Matias Callejo.