USPA NE Circuit Arena Women’s Challenge
The 2023 Autumn Arena Polo Season reached its zenith in mid-November with a record 21 players responding to the call to compete in the 5th annual USPA Northeast Circuit Arena Women’s Challenge to favorable late New England autumn weather conditions throughout the 4-day event. Players and ponies from five states made their way to Newport Polo’s arena training center in Newport County to compete in one or both flights of the annual competition, the only women’s arena tournament held in the Northeast this Autumn. The teams were comprised of elite professional, amateur and up-and-coming talent from the region, creating an exciting atmosphere of camaraderie and sportsmanship on and off the field.
Handicap: 0 – 4 goal
Host Club: Westchester Polo Club – Newport County, Rhode Island | Nov 9-10, 2023
Final Score: 10 – 9 | Winner: Galloping Gals (Anna Dwyer, Ariana Dans, Liz Pytka, Carol Gaudreau, alt.)
MVP: Anna Dwyer
Best Playing Pony: Juanton ridden by Launi Perrault
2nd Place: Tenacious Divas (Laurel Howe, Leslie Streuli, Launi Perrault, Sadie Canova, alt.)
3rd Place: Queen’s Gambit (Meg Stowe, Ashleigh Kinsella, Stephanie Coyne)
4th Place: Bonafide (Meghan Z Tierney, Ava Richard, Marilyn Bruno)
The tournament’s B Flight (0-4 goal) flight took place on Thu/Fri, Nov. 9-10 under the lights. A random draw was held earlier in the week to determine opponents in the opening rounds. Semi Final I pitted Bonafide in yellow-jerseys with Meghan Z Tierney, Ava Richard and Marilyn Bruno against Tenacious Divas Laurel Howe, Leslie Streuli and Launi Perrault in Blue jerseys. The Divas proved to have the upper hand by opening with a two-pointer by L. Howe, then leading through all four chuckers, 3-1, 4-3, 7-4 and 8-6 to advance to the Championship.
Semi Final II proved to be more of a nailbiter as two evenly matched opponents duked it out, between Galloping Gals Anna Dwyer, Ariana Dans and Liz Pytka in Red/White jerseys battling Queen’s Gambit’s Meg Stowe, Ashleigh Kinsella and Stephanie Coyne in Charcoal Grey uniforms. Despite a few lead changes and often tied, Galloping Gals held on to a sliver of an edge in each chucker, 2-1, 4-3, 6-6, to win 10-8, earning their berth in the Championship.
The Final rounds on Friday night began with the Consolation match competing for 3rd place in which Queen’s Gambit held a steady lead over Bonafide in the first half, 4-3, 7-4, until Bonafide turned up the heat and crawled back in the second half to tie the score in a thrilling 4th chukker, but gave up a costly penalty 3 conversion goal to Queen’s Gambit‘s Kinsella that clinched the 10-9 bronze finish.
The Championship brought out Tenacious Divas against Galloping Gals, each chomping at the bit from the throw in, and neck and neck after the first chucker, 2-2, until Galloping Gals‘ Dwyer found her stride with goals, saves and assists to extend their lead 4-6, then 9-5, which held up against an earnest 4th chucker rally by Tenacious Divas that narrowly fell short by 10-9, earning Galloping Gals 1st Place and Tenacious Divas 2nd Place in their podium finishes.
Winners Trophies were presented to the Galloping Gals, and MVP honors went to Anna Dwyer, while the Best Playing Pony was Juanton ridden by Launi Perrault. The mood was high as players adjourned to the fireside for a BBQ celebration.
Handicap: 6 – 9 goal
Host Club: Westchester Polo Club – Newport County, Rhode Island | Nov 11-12, 2023
Final Score: 14 – 10 | Winner: Stage Hill/Kingswood (Elizabeth Sawicki, Ari Dogani, Amanda Poor)
MVP: Ava Richard
Best Playing Pony: Tarzan ridden by Jenna Davis
2nd Place: The Avary (Ava Richard, Touba Ghadessi, Jenna Davis)
3rd Place: Bonafide (Laurel Howe, Anna Dwyer, Ula Green, Meghan Tierney, alt.)
4th Place: Mad Mouse Polo (Ashleigh Kinsella, Hannah Stowe, Minnie Keating)
Crisp sunny weather greeted the A Flight teams for both weekend days of stiff competition. Photographers Rod Harris, John LIncourt and Eric Schneider were on hand to capture the excitement, and Club members and entourage came out in numbers to cheer on the 4 teams led by professional players. USPA LLC Umpire John Bianco officiated.
A random draw held earlier in the week determined the matchups in Saturday’s opening rounds. Semi Final I pitted Mad Mouse Polo in pink jerseys with Ashleigh Kinsella, Hannah Stowe and Minnie Keating against The Avery’s Ava Richard, Touba Ghadessi and Jenna Davis in Amber jerseys. The Avery maintained a steady lead in the first half, 4-1 and 8-5 despite a 2-pointer by Stowe, until Mad Mouse came out swinging in the second half, closing the gap to a point in the 3rd chucker, 8-9, then taking the lead in the 4th chucker, but gave up 2 back to back penalties for the go-ahead goal for The Avery‘s 10-11 win to advance to the Championship.
Semi Final II pitted Bonafide’s Anna Dwyer, Laurel Howe/Meghan Tierney and Ula Green in Yellow jerseys against Stage Hill/Kingswood’s Liz Sawicki, Ari Dogani and Amanda Poor in White/Lime uniforms. The scoring duo of Dogani and Poor was difficult to fend off, even with a pair of 2-pointers by Green, resulting in a dominating 2-8, 4-12, 9-17 and 11-20 win by Stage Hill/Kingswood to advance to the Championship on Sunday. The teams enjoyed a game film review afterwards.
The Final rounds on Sunday began with the Consolation match competing for 3rd place in which Mad Mouse Polo took on Bonafide who jumped to an early lead and maintained the momentum through the first half, 1-5 and 3-7, but Mad Mouse turned the tide in the 3rd chucker including a 2-pointer by Stowe, holding Bonafide scoreless, 6-7 and took the lead in the 4th chucker, but were overcome by a 2-pointer from Green that sealed an 11-9 3rd Place finish.
The highly anticipated Championship brought out The Avery against Stage Hill/Kingswood for a battle royale that played out in close, tactical progress, despite a 3-goal handicap advantage for SHK. Dogani shelled The Avery including a 2-pointer to overcome the handicap points, 3-4, but The Avery found its footing and battled goal for goal in the explosive second chucker, where Davis and Dogani exchanged 2-pointers and multiple field goals by their teammates to tie, before SHK pulled ahead 7-9. SHK tried to pad its lead in the second half until Davis‘ 2-pointer shifted the momentum and closed the gap 10-11, but The Avery ran out of steam in the 4th chucker and SHK racked up 3 unanswered goals for a 14-10 1st Place victory, with The Avery taking 2nd Place in their podium finishes.
Prize Money was divided between 1st and 2nd Place finishers, and Winners Trophies were presented to Stage Hill/Kingswood. MVP honors went to Ava Richard, while the Best Playing Pony wasTarzan ridden by Jenna Davis. The jubilation moved to the fireside for a BBQ celebration.
USPA Circuit Tournaments present an ideal forum for regional competition for polo players looking to continue their season of competitive polo after the grass season has ended, while outdoor conditions remain well-suited to still travel and play outdoors in the 4QTR of the year in New England.
Check out match photos! Tournament video footage can be found on
Photos: John Lincourt Photography + Rod Harris + Eric Schneider