An Article by Tony Gregg
Played in a round-robin format with cumulative scores over two days of competition, the 2021 Women’s Pacific Coast Open at Eldorado Polo Club (Indio, California) saw Plank & Co. (Kendall Plank, Dayelle Fargey, Taylor Olcott, Micaela Saracco) sweep the competition to claim the championship.
With only three teams competing, the round-robin format provided its challenges, expressed Plank, “it was difficult because you only had two chukkers to get a feeling for the other teams.”
Fargey, who has a history of playing with Plank in various women’s tournaments including winning the 2019 Women’s Pacific Coast Open, took the lead in assembling Plank & Co. with two young players in Olcott and Saracco. “I’ve played against Taylor [Olcott] at Central Coast Polo Club [Los Osos, California] and La Herradura Polo Club [Santa Ynez, California],” Plank revealed. “And for the past two years I’ve leased horses from Micaela [Saracco’s] father Luis, and it came together that she would play and I would lease horses from him again this year,” added Plank.
2021 Women’s Pacific Coast Open Competitors.
Beginning on December 31, Cheval Athletics (Malia McCoy, Catlin, Dix, Sierra Dunbar, Kaile Roos), awarded .5 goals on handicap at the outset of play, faced off against Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club (Melanja Jones, Jennifer Alexy, Jessica Bailey, Cory Williams), Cheval Athletics emerged with a narrow edge 3.5-3 moving into the second day of competition. Plank & Co. entered the field for the first time in the tournament against Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club (SBPRC) to end the match leading 3-2. The final matchup of the opening round robin featured Plank & Co.’s second victory of the day over Cheval Athletics 3-2.5.
Sunday’s final round robin kicked-off with Cheval Athletics and SBPRC in front of an exuberant Cantina crowd. While the first match would be determined by handicap, Cheval Athletics comfortably took the second meeting against SBPRC 6.5-3. Goals were extremely hard to find in the middle chukkers of play, resulting in a 4-2 Plank & Co. victory over SBPRC.
Most Valuable Player Taylor Olcott carries the ball down field riding Indio.
The last two chukkers of the final showcased a thrilling match-up between Plank & Co. and Cheval Athletics for the championship. With early offensive success, Plank & Co. took the initial lead 4-2.5, however, Cheval Athletics made a comeback push to overtake Plank & Co. 4.5-4. Not to be deterred, a surging Plank & Co. scored two consecutive goals to retake a .5 lead. With little time remaining, Olcott converted one final Penalty 3 for Plank & Co. to secure their Women’s Pacific Coast Open title 6-5.5.
“The teams were really evenly matched”, shared Plank. “It was man, man, man as much as we could, play the backshot and win the field. That’s what we did. We had two young girls [Taylor Olcott and Micaela Saracco] on our team that never really played high-level women’s polo before. I was really impressed, it was great to see them shine.”
Olcott shared similar sentiments, “Even in the practices, our teams were very even. Going into our second game we knew we needed to work on our penalty shots and team plays. We were able to make those necessary changes to better how we were playing and come out with the win.”
Best Playing Pony was awarded to Sorpresa. Played by Micaela Saracco, owned by Luis Saracco. Pictured with Luis Saracco and Ramon Dameno.
Leading her team with five goals in her first women’s 16-goal tournament, Taylor Olcott was named Most Valuable Player sharing, “being the lowest goal handicapped player out of anybody and receiving [MVP] was big for me. I’ve been lucky enough to work with Megan Gracida and Dayelle Fargey who do a lot of work in women’s polo, and have met some amazing players [while] playing in great tournaments through them. For that, I’m grateful.”
Bringing her own horses to the tournament, Olcott credited much of her success to her string, “my horses are a big deal to me. I do a lot to keep them in shape and fit.” Oclott played three chestnut geldings throughout the Women’s Pacific Coast Open including Indio, “who I’ve had for about five years. He has played interscholastic, grass, arena- whatever I ask him to do.” Along with Indio Olcott also brought Rubio, “purchased from Santiago Wulff, [is] a massive tank of a horse that does whatever you want,” and Gebulan, “who I bought from Memo Gracida. He’s this handy little pony. He hits, he bumps, he turns, he runs, he’s phenomenal. They [all] worked unbelievably hard for me in this tournament.”
Best Playing Pony was awarded to Sorpresa, played by Micaela Saracco in the sixth chukker and owned by her father Luis Saracco. The Sunny Hale Memorial Horsemanship Award was presented to Malia McCoy for her continued positive attitude, fairness and support for her peers on and off the field.
Commenting on the resounding success of her first Women’s Pacific Coast Open, Olcott is already looking to the future, “I’m very grateful for this win, the MVP [award] and the team I was able to win with. It was amazing polo [with] amazing women, [and] this tournament is something I will be going to try and continue to play in.”
Sunny Hale Horsemanship Award Winner Malia McCoy, presented by Andrea Salas.
All photos courtesy of ©Kerri Kerley.