La Mariposa won The Polo School Women’s Polo League second week of action Wednesday at Santa Rita Polo Farm.
By Sharon Robb Photos by Candace Ferreira
In a competitive three-team round robin, La Mariposa (Valentina Villamil, 1, Maggie Hill, 0, Annalise Phillips, 1, Nina Clarkin, 10) finished undefeated at 2-0.
La Mariposa defeated Santa Aurelia (Jen Buchman, 0, Mary Wright, 1, Kaile Roos, 3, Marisa Bianchi, 4), 2-1, and La Monarquia (Megan Manubay, 1, Breanna Gunnell, 4, Shariah Harris, 3, Malicia von Falkenhausen, 3), 2-1. In the third round robin game, La Monarquia shut out Santa Aurelia, 1-0.
The round robin featured players of all ability levels from 0 to 10 goals.
“I was so proud to be on the same field as Nina Clarkin,” von Falkenhausen said. “She has been the best player in the world for so long. My teammates were great. It was so much fun yesterday.
“Every year I feel like it goes up a level,” von Falkenhausen said. “Last week we had three 10-goalers out there. You can’t beat that. That’s the best polo you can play in the world and where else would you get that except in this women’s league.”
In the opening two-chukker game, Phillips scored the first goal at the 1:27 mark to give La Mariposa a 1-0 lead over Santa Aurelia. Villamil scored early (4:25) in the second chukker for a 2-0 advantage. Roos scored in the final second to end the round robin at 2-1.
In the second game, La Mariposa and La Monarquia played to a 0-0 opening chukker. La Monarquia took a 1-0 lead on Gunnell’s 40-yard penalty conversion. Clarkin scored the first of her two goals with 3:40 left to tie the game and clinched the win with another goal with 10 seconds left.
In the third game, Manubay scored the only goal in the opening chukker to give La Monarquia a 1-0 victory.
von Falkenhausen, 27, of Dallas has competed in the league for seven years. Her goal rating has advanced from zero to three. She is also a recipient of the SunnyShip given to deserving league players in honor of legendary Hall of Famer Sunny Hale. She plays polo year-round.
“I love that I get to play polo on good fields every Wednesday,” von Falkenhausen said. “I know that I can count on it every Wednesday. I get to play with such great players and friends and I get to move my horses. It’s amazing.
“When I started the league I was zero goals and now I am three. I hope to play in this league as long as I can. As long as I am coming down to Wellington I will be playing in the league.”
The only full-time weekly women’s polo league in the world was created by Alina Carta, a polo pioneer and one of the highest ranked women in the U.S. in the 1980s, and Melissa Ganzi, Grand Champions Polo Club President, World Polo League co-founder and avid player.
A handful of players including Clarkin were using the games as a tuneup for the U.S. Women’s Open, Feb. 4-18, at Port Mayaca Polo Club and National Polo Center. Clarkin is playing with Shariah Harris, Caitlin Cregg and Maddie Grant on the inaugural Work To Ride/Grant Champions team.
The nation’s longest running women’s league is held every Wednesday through April and is live streamed by ChukkerTV.
All team entry fees from the weekly league benefit The Polo School, a stand-alone USPA-sanctioned club. The Polo School offers lessons to men, women and children of all ages and ability levels.
During the winter polo season, Grand Champions Polo Club, the nation’s largest and most innovative USPA-sanctioned polo club nestled in the heart of the world’s winter equestrian capital, hosts a wide range of tournaments: 6, 8, 12, 20, and 26-goal leagues, The Polo School Women’s Polo League, WCT Finals, several PTF junior tournaments, World Polo League, World Polo League Pride and Sunset Chukkers & Cocktails at both Grand Champions and Santa Rita.
The season’s biggest highlight coming up this month is the sixth season of the World Polo League, the only 26-goal polo played outside of Argentina, featuring some of the world’s top players including 10-goalers Pablo MacDonough, Jeta Castagnola and Juan Martin Nero, former 10-goaler Gonzalito Pieres, Alejandro Novillo Astrada and hometown favorite Nic Roldan, the second highest ranked American at 8 goals.
Other high goal season highlights are the Sterling Cup (20 goals), USPA Butler Handicap (18-22 goals), Feb. 7-24 $100,000 World Cup (0-40 goals) and Feb. 27-March 10 Santa Rita Abierto (20 goals). With the Aspen Valley 8-Goal completed, the remaining January tournaments are the Metropolitan 6 Goal Cup and Limited Edition 12-Goal Series.
Grand Champions and Santa Rita Polo Farm is the largest and most unique private 102-acre polo facility in Wellington with 212 stalls in nine self-contained barns, two tracks, five climate-controlled tack rooms, vet room, staff quarters, guest house and four polo fields with state-of-the-art underground irrigation and short work arena. The club has 11 well-manicured world-class fields at GCPC and Santa Rita.
Grand Champions Polo Club caters to men, women and youth polo players at all levels. Its’ expert staff can customize a complete playing experience including horses, pros and certified umpires in addition to lessons and practice sessions as part of its’ Polo On Demand program.
The Polo School, now located at the former Pony Express facility, operates in Wellington January through May and September through November. The stand-alone USPA-sanctioned polo club is dedicated to teaching polo to all ages, particularly grass roots youth. Its mission is to provide individuals opportunities in polo at every economic and ability level. The Polo School has nurtured several junior, men and women polo players now playing in the pro and amateur ranks since its inception.