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Stage Hill Polo, GCPC Eagle Prime Lending Win The Polo School Women's Polo League™ Season-Opener

WELLINGTON, Fla., January 25, 2024--The Polo School Women's League season-opening games were impressive with Stage Hill Polo and GCPC Eagle Prime Lending winning on Wednesday at Santa Rita Polo Farm.


By Sharon Robb

Photos by Candace Ferreira




Stage Hill Polo (Alyson Poor, 4, Fatima Balzano, 6, Jen Buchan, 0, Marisa Bianchi, 4, Breanna Gunnell, 4) defeated La Fe II (Hannan Fadil, 1, Malicia von Falkenhausen, 3, Kaili Ross, 3, Hazel Jackson, 10, Maggie Hill, 0), 10-4. Bianchi had a game-high five goals and Balzano added three. Gunnell and Buchan each had one.


GCPC Eagle Prime Lending (Mary Wright, 1, Megan Manubay, 1, Maddie Grant, 3, Nina Clarkin, 10) edged La Fe I (Valentina Villamil, 0, Naomi Marlough, 1, Ava Rose Hinkson, 3/Malicia von Falkenhausen, 3, Hope Arellano, 10), 3-1, in the opening game. In addition to a penalty-one, Clarkin and Grant each scored goals.


The game featured players of all ability levels from 10 to 0 goals on evenly well-matched teams.


"It was so nice," Clarkin said. "This league is brilliant. They are absolutely enjoying themselves. Playing with upcoming players is actually something I really enjoy. I hope players like myself, Hazel and Hope are passing on a little bit of knowledge.


"I am impressed by the players coming up," Clarkin said. "The grass roots of any sport are really important. If we haven't got a healthy bottom end of the triangle then we have no where to go. I think it's great seeing so many people playing in these sort of leagues and getting the opportunity to improve."


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.


"I am thrilled by the games and the way the girls played," Carta said. "Their enthusiasm and joyfulness out there was wonderful. The fields played great. It was just a wonderful day.


"To have the opportunity to play with the three 10-goalers in the world playing with us was a treat," Carta said.


Several players, including Clarkin, were using the games as a tuneup for the upcoming Shady Lady Women's Cup at Port Mayaca, Jan. 29-31 and U.S. Women's Open, Feb. 3-18, at Port Mayaca and National Polo Center. Clarkin is playing with Shariah Harris, Caitlin Cregg and Maddie Grant in both tournaments on the Work To Ride/Grant Champions team.


"I'm really excited to be on this team," Clarkin said. "It's a new team. I am playing with three talented up-and-coming Americans. It's great and I am really looking forward to it."


The nation's longest running women's league is held every Wednesday through April and will be live streamed by  ChukkerTV.


"I think we are going to have a very good season," Carta said. "We have plenty of girls that are signed up. This league is unique where you can just sign up, play, bring a few horses and enjoy yourself. It brings people together. It's fulfilling its mission statement."


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.


At the Joe Barry Memorial final on Sunday at NPC, Arellano will be honored for achieving the sport's highest ranking. She will also be presented with the Hugo Dalmar Award for her outstanding display of sportsmanship and character on the polo field. In 2023, Arellano led La Fe to victory in the U.S. Open Women’s Polo Championship in March, winning MVP in the final. In the fall, the 20-year old became the first American to win the Women’s Argentine Open.

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