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Work To Ride/Grand Champions Falls Short In U.S. Open Women's Polo Championship Semifinals; 90210 Plays Buena Vibra In Sunday Final

OKEECHOBEE, Fla. February 16, 2024---Work To Ride/Grand Champions was eliminated in the semifinals of the U.S. Open Women's Polo Championship Thursday at Port Mayaca Polo Club.

By Sharon Robb

Photos by David Lominska

After leading in the opening chukker, Work To Ride/Grand Champions (Caitlin Cregg, 3, Shariah Harris, 3, Maddie Grant, 6, Nina Clarkin, 10) fell behind in the third chukker and never recovered, falling to 90210 (Sarah Siegel-Magness, 2, Meghan Gracida, 4, Catalina Lavinia, 7, Mia Cambiaso, 8), 10-7.

90210 (3-1) will meet undefeated Buena Vibra (Valentina Tarazona, 1/Juliana Tarazona, 1, Cory Williams, 4, Clara Cassino Seppe, 8, Milly Hine, 8), the only remaining undefeated team (4-0), in the final on Sunday at 3 p.m. in the featured six-chukker game at National Polo Center's U.S. Polo Assn Field One.

Buena Vibra, which means "good vibes," knocked off defending champion La Fe (Naomi Tachibana Marlough, 1, Hanan Fadil, 1, Hope Arellano, 10, Hazel Jackson, 10), 10-9, in the second semifinal. La Fe was plagued with fouls (14-1 by the third chukker).

Work To Ride finished with a 2-2 record in the eight-team tournament, presented by Brad and Kathy Coors Foundation.

To advance into the semis, Work To Ride/Grand Champions defeated BTA/Lazy 3 (KC Krueger, 6, Sarah Wiseman, 7, Anna Palacios, 5, Jordan Fikes, 3), 6-3 victory. The team also defeated Iconica 6-5 in overtime and lost to Buena Vibra, 9-8, also in overtime.

"As a team I am extremely proud of us," said Harris, a Work To Ride alum making history as the first Black woman to compete in the Women's U.S. Open. "A month or two ago we didn't even know if all of us were going to be playing together."

Grand Champions President and World Polo League co-founder Melissa Ganzi came to the rescue when Harris asked for help, sponsoring the team and also mounting Harris and Clarkin with world-class horses.

"For us to come together so last minute and make it to the semis and to have a real shot at making it to the final I think is definitely something we should be proud of," Harris said. "The amount of growth we had from our very first game together to now is crazy.

"I'm always hard on myself. Of course, I'm like 'I should have done this, I should have done that.' But that's me."

Work To Ride/Grand Champions started off strong in the opening chukker coming out aggressive while jumping out to a 3-1 lead behind Grant's three goals including a coast-to-coast run to goal after the knock-in. With 17 seconds left in the first chukker, Grant scored her third goal and 14th overall for the tournament.

90210 needed only the second chukker to regain its composure and tie the score, 3-3, on a 30-yard penalty conversion by Siegel-Magness and Lavinia's first goal of the tournament.

Work To Ride/Grand Champions was dominating the throw-ins and shooting 50 percent but was held scoreless again in the third chukker and had nine fouls by halftime. Cambiaso converted a 40-yard penalty with 3:26 left to break the tie and take a 4-3 lead.

90210, playing its best game of the tournament with polo greats Adolfo Cambiaso and Memo Gracida coaching from the sidelines, got stronger with each chukker. Late in the fourth chukker, 90210 led 7-4 after Cambiaso connected with Lavinia for another goal. Grant converted a 30-goal penalty to cut the lead to two but Cambiaso, playing her third horse of the chukker, scored with nine seconds left to regain a three-goal cushion.

90210 continued to control the momentum in the fifth and final chukker, pulling away for a 10-5 advantage with four minutes left to play. Clarkin and Grant scored in the final minutes to cut the deficit.

"It was a great U.S. Open, I felt like every game was competitive," Harris said. "I'm already thinking how can I do this again next year. Of course, I want more. I would love to have this team come back. I think we have a good squad. We tweak a few things here and there and we could win it all."

Clarkin, one of only three 10-goal ranked women in the world, told the team how proud she was of the them and how far it's come, and that she would play with them again any day. "I think coming from her is the biggest compliment you could get," Harris said.

Philadelphia-based 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. Ganzi also mounted Clarkin and Harris with a large string of horses, several played in the World Polo League. Grand Champions is the nation's largest polo club with 11 fields.



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