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Work To Ride/Grand Champions Drops First Bracket Game In Overtime, Plays BTA/Lazy 3 Sunday In U.S. Open Women's Polo Championship

OKEECHOBEE, Fla. February 8, 2024---Work To Ride/Grand Champions hopes to remain alive in the U.S. Open Women's Polo Championship comes down to its final bracket game Sunday against BTA/Lazy 3 at Port Mayaca Polo Club.

By Sharon Robb

Photo by David Lominska

After opening the tournament with a thrilling 6-5 overtime win over Iconica, Work To Ride/Grand Champions (Caitlin Cregg, 3, Shariah Harris, 3, Maddie Grant, 6, Nina Clarkin, 10) lost a hardfought 9-8 overtime game to Buena Vibra (Valentina Tarazona, 1, Cory Williams, 4, Clara Cassino Seppe, 8, Milly Hine, 8) on Wednesday.

In the best game of the tournament so far, Williams scored the winning goal, her third of the game, with 3:55 left on a neck shot to enable Buena Vibra to remain undefeated at 2-0. Work To Ride/Grand Champions dropped to 1-1.

Work To Ride/Grand Champions will try and bounce back against BTA/Lazy 3 (KC Krueger, 6, Sarah Wiseman, 7, Anna Palacios, 5, Jordan Fikes, 3) in its third and final bracket game on Sunday at 10 a.m. Top two teams in each bracket advance into the Feb. 14-15 semifinals.

A tripleheader is scheduled for Thursday. Iconica (0-1) plays BTA/Lazy 3 (0-1) at 10:30 a.m.; Mint Eco Carwash (0-1) plays Parrotheads Polo (1-0) at noon; and defending champion La Fe (1-0) plays 90210 Polo (0-1).

Both teams played well in regulation. There were 12 lead changes before Grant's fifth goal of the game and second from the penalty line, with 1:54, tied the game at 8-8.

"We should have won that game, we had our chances," said Grant, making her third U.S. Open appearance. "We need to be making those plays at the end of the game. I love the team and I think we still have a chance."

Buena Vibra jumped out to a 3-1 leading in the opening chukker. Work To Ride/Grand Champions quickly bounced bac in the second to take a 4-3 lead when Clarkin scored her third goal of the game and third straight for the team.  Work To Ride/Grand Champions also had leads of 5-4 late in the second chukker and 6-5 at the half.

Work To Ride/Grand Champions had several other opportunities to score but missed key penalty shots and also gave up three penalty-one goals including back-to-back in the fourth chukker.

Buena Vibra had one final chance to win with 1:19 left in regulation. Hine jumped on the line catching Clarkin for a foul. Hine, however, watched her 60-yard penalty conversion curve wide sending the game into overtime.

Clarkin, one of only three 10-goalers in the world, escaped injury midway through the second chukker when her horse stumbled but both horse and rider quickly got up and walked off the field.

Grant, playing one of her career-best games, led the team in scoring with five goals. Clarkin added three. Hine led Buena Vibra with five goals.

"I really appreciate all the support and I'm really happy how my horses played especially, but at the end of the day it's a team sport," Grant said. "It's really frustrating. I think I'm feeling that right now more than anything. There were a lot of emotions yesterday.

"From where we started ten days ago to now is incredible," Grant said. "I'm sure we will learn from this and go and watch the game together and go over it with our coach. We are super lucky to have Augustin Obregon. He's been amazing. We are super adaptable which is great and all four of us can do our jobs."

Work To Ride is a non-profit organization that provides horsemanship education and equine sports training to low-income youth, ages 7 to 18, from under-resourced communities. The team is sponsored by Grand Champions President and World Polo League co-founder Melissa Ganzi. Grand Champions is the nation's largest polo club with 11 fields.

Eight teams are competing in the tournament presented by Brad and Kathy Coors Foundation and live streamed by USPA Polo Network.

Each team plays three four-chukker bracket games. The semifinals will be five chukkers and finals six chukkers. Preliminary and semifinal games will be at Port Mayaca Polo Club through Feb. 15. The final will be hosted Feb. 18 at National Polo Center in Wellington.



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