CrossFit/El Cid Wins January Women's League At Santa Rita Polo Farm; Nicole Watson Named MVP

  January Women's League finalists Masai of Palm Beach and CrossFit/El Cid during awards ceremony.

January Women's League finalists Masai of Palm Beach and CrossFit/El Cid during awards ceremony.

WELLINGTON, FL., February 1, 2018---CrossFit/El Cid took up where it left off last season in the Women's Polo Weekly League at Santa Rita Polo Farm.

Last year's season-finale winners opened the 2018 season with a thrilling 1-0 victory over Masai of Palm Beach Wednesday at Santa Rita Polo Farm.

The talented foursome of Nicole Watson, Malicia von Falkenhausen, Jennifer Williams and Cecilia Cochran defeated Masai of Palm Beach (Molly Houlton, Slaney O'Hanlon, Alina Carta, Malia Bryan, Anita Avendano), 1-0.

Nicole Watson was named Sanda Gane European Day Spa Most Valuable Player. Lychee, 13, owned and ridden by Cecilia Cochran, was the Masai of Palm Beach Best Playing Pony.

After a hardfought defensive battle for three chukkers, Malicia von Falkenhausen, 21, of Hamburg, Germany, scored the winning goal with 2:40 remaining in the fourth and final chukker.

The first-of-its' kind weekly women's  polo league in the world, was created by Carta, one of the sport's pioneers, and USPA Florida Circuit Governor and Grand Champions Polo Club President Melissa Ganzi, also a top player who has competed around the world, most recently at the St. Moritz Snow Polo World Cup, where three years ago she made history as the first woman to compete in the all-male tournament.

Carta pitched the idea to Ganzi in May 2016 and the league made its debut in January with Scribble Horse (Kathy Iverson, Ashley Emerson, Kylie Sheehan, Courtney Asdourain) winning the inaugural event.

"I'm so happy with this first month, it was a lot of fun and competitive," Carta said. "It was great to start off January with two teams and we plan on having four teams next month.

"The field was great and we are really blessed to be able play here," Carta said. "Thank God for Grand Champions being totally supportive of women's polo so it grows. We have a good group of girls that are playing.

"Everybody had fun. You don't even have to think about it, you know that Wednesday morning you are going to play. I want to keep this simple and fun. We switched the teams around every week so everyone could play with each other."

Von Falkenhausen started playing polo five years ago.

"I started with Melissa and Riley Ganzi because I was really good friends with Riley," von Falkenhausen said. "I went to the summer camp and basically started at Grand Champions. I love it so much, it's my favorite thing.

"This weekly series is amazing," von Falkenhausen said. "I love all the women players and it's awesome to play with friends. It's good to be on a team, playing on a team brings out the best in you."

Women's polo is the fastest growing sector in polo today and making progress throughout the world including the first Argentine Women's Open held in November before the men's match in Palermo. It was won by La Dolfina (Mia Cambiaso, Milagros Fernandez Araujo, Nina Clarkin, Candelaria Fernandez Araujo), 7-6 in overtime over Ellerstina (Clara Cassino, Hazel Jackson-Gaona, Lia Salvo, Sarah Wiseman). Candelaria Fernandez was the tournament's first MVP.

"It's fantastic and the level they played was amazing," said Carta, one of the highest ranked women in the U.S. in the 1980s. "When I started playing there weren't many women playing in Argentina, it's great to see the sport grow there and around the world. It's great to see so many girls play women's polo."

The February League will begin Wednesday, Feb. 7 with the final set for Feb. 28. The final is named the Sunset "Sunny" Hale Memorial Tournament in honor of the all-time greatest women's player and visionary, Sunny Hale died in Norman, Okla. at age 48 due to complications from cancer.

"We all miss Sunny Hale, it was a huge loss for women's polo," Carta said.

Hale will be inducted posthumously into the Museum of Polo Hall of Fame on Feb. 16 for her remarkable achievements on and off the polo field. Hale was the first woman in polo history to win the 26-goal U.S. Open in an era when the sport was male-dominated. Tickets remain on sale.

Grand Champions Polo Club and Santa Rita Polo Farm is the largest and most unique 100-acre polo facility in Wellington with 120 stalls in five self-contained barns, exercise track, five climate-controlled tack rooms, vet room, staff quarters, guest house and polo fields with state-of-the-art underground irrigation and stick-and-ball fields.

The club features monthly 6, 8 and 12-goal tournaments and women's weekly league play during the winter season in addition to two 16-20 tournaments, $50,000 National 12 Goal, $100,000 World Cup winner-take-all 0-40-goal tournament, WCT Tournament and USPA National President's Cup.

Grand Champions 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 only polo club in the U.S. to offer the unique program.

The Club Hotline is 561-644-5050. It will be updated every day at 8 a.m. for both players and fans.