Filled with a competitive fire after claiming the second finalist position, Iconica was eager to challenge defending champions Polo Gear Coffee Company (Dawn Jones, Danielle Lussi, Tiffany Busch, Clarissa Echezarreta) in the Texas Women’s Open Final on Sunday, November 15. Coached by none other than four-time U.S. Open Polo Championship™ winner Kristy Outhier and 2021 Hall of Fame inductee Julio Arellano, Iconica’s (Madison Outhier, Hope Arellano*, Kylie Sheehan*, Maureen Brennan) familial expertise and close team bonds proved the key to their 3.5-2 victory, adding their names to the prestigious trophy at Houston Polo Club in Houston, Texas.
“I am very proud of our team because each one of them worked so hard and their teamwork and camaraderie was incredible; they really did this together. I am also extremely proud for my daughter Madi [Outhier] to have this experience with such great players and teammates. My heart felt a special happiness for the win to be with Maureen Brennan’s Iconica. As a coach I felt like I was part of the team like the old days.” – Kristy Outhier, Iconica coach
Starting off the game with a half goal on handicap, Iconica opened the first chukker with a display of teamwork, Sheehan setting up Arellano to score. “Hope [Arellano] is one of my favorite teammates and I think we complement each other really well,” Sheehan said. “We both like to play a fast, open game and she’s such a wonderful teammate, talented player and mature beyond her years.” Answering back in the second chukker, Lussi put Polo Gear Coffee Company on the scoreboard, scoring the only goal for her team in the first half. Capitalizing on a loose ball, Outhier added to the tally to give Iconica the 2.5-1 advantage headed into halftime.
Charging through the pack in the third chukker, Arellano avoided a hook and made a nearside shot on Sundance, picking up her second goal of the day. “No matter what was happening on the field, we maintained a very man-based strategy,” Brennan revealed. “On offense Kylie [Sheehan] and Hope [Arellano] worked very well together in the back and I alternated between shielding for them and being very dedicated to staying with one of their backs.” Entering the fourth and final chukker up 3.5-1, Iconica focused on maintaining their lead as time ran out. Finding an opportunity to run to goal, Jones seized the second point for Polo Gear Coffee Company, but ultimately the women of Iconica claimed their first Texas Women’s Open trophy 3.5-2. “This is probably my biggest win to date in my women’s polo career,” Sheehan said. “It’s just such an honor to get to play at this level.”
Polo Gear Coffee Company’s Dawn Jones was named Most Valuable Player. “I believe I fulfilled most of my responsibility of marking Kylie Sheehan seventy percent of the game to help my team,” Jones said. “Marking is a skill I have been trying to develop these last few years along with attacking goal while playing the number one position. I was very impressed by all of the teams who participated and congratulations to Iconica for a well-played win!”
Dawn Jones’ Picasita, played by Polo Gear Coffee Company’s Tiffany Busch in the second chukker, received Best Playing Pony Professional honors. Played in the 2017 U.S. Open Women’s Polo Championship™, Picasita also won Best Playing Pony Professional with Lia Salvo. “All of San Saba’s horses are amazing, but Picasita for me has the speed and handle I prefer,” Busch said. “She played a full chukker in all three tournament games. Some horses like her have the heart and complete knowledge of the game so all I need to do is pilot them!”
Law Man’s Dancer was named Best Playing Pony Amateur, played by Madison Outhier in the third chukker. A black Quarter horse mare, Law Man’s Dancer also won the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) Best Playing Pony Bronze trophy. “She is one of my favorites and she is super fast and handy with a huge heart,” Outhier said.
Although their schedules only allowed for one practice before the start of the tournament, the women of Iconica had the advantage of familiarity both on and off the field. “I was playing in Aiken, South Carolina, before this tournament started, but I’ve played with Kylie [Sheehan] multiple times and I’ve known both Madi [Outhier] and Maureen [Brennan] for a very long time,” Arellano said. Although this was Maureen Brennan’s first time playing with her teammates, she has known Madi since she was a toddler. “Kristy [Outhier] asked me this past summer to play in this tournament and at first I didn’t think I could do it with timing,” Brennan said. “Kristy said ‘please Madi wants to play with you.’ Kristy couldn’t play with us, but she was our manager and organized so many things which made it easy for us. I really haven’t had someone before who is organizing everything. She would get here ahead of us with the trailers had them parked in the shade and it was such a relief. I told Julio [Arellano] years ago when Hope [Arellano] was tiny that I wanted to be the first to play with her,” Brennan continued. “Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to play with her in her debut but now I got play with her as an 8-goal captain.”
“Even though I’ve known Maureen [Brennan] for a long time, it’s my first time really getting to play with her at a high level in women’s polo,” Sheehan said. “She’s such a disciplined, well-organized player and she really shares her knowledge and experience with the rest of the team. I think Maureen was a very important part of our success this week because she gave it her all and that’s all you can ask for in a teammate.”
Winning both the Texas Women’s Open and the Women’s Rodeo World Championship titles in the same week, Madi Outhier’s busy schedule of traveling between Fort Worth, Dallas and Houston, Texas, to compete was well worth it. “Winning the Texas Women’s Open is definitely the biggest win of my polo career and to have my mom [Kristy Outhier] and such an amazing team behind me was unreal,” Outhier exclaimed. “My mom’s strategy of women’s polo was essential to our team’s win as well as Hope’s dad Julio Arellano. To have those two coaching us and in our corner was amazing and I learned so many valuable lessons throughout this tournament and had the best time.”
Bringing in their own horses from South Carolina, Florida and Texas for the tournament, Iconica attributed a lot of their success to the fact that all players were self-mounted. “I believe a huge part of our team’s success was that we all brought our own horses and we were well mounted,” Sheehan commented. “We were able to come to the field each day confident in our horses.”
As her family looked on, Arellano was excited to return to Houston for the first time in three years and take home the prestigious women’s tournament. “Both my brothers, Lucas and Agustin, were watching the livestream on Global Polo TV, but my parents were able to come to Texas with me,” Arellano said. “I begged my dad to stay and coach us in the final and my mom is my biggest supporter so I’m very grateful for my family giving up so much and allowing me to come here to play.”
*Hope Arellano is a member of Team USPA. Kylie Sheehan is a Team USPA alumna. Team USPA is a USPA program designed to enhance and grow the sport of polo in the United States by identifying young, talented American players and providing mentored training and playing opportunities leading to a pool of higher rated amateur and pro players and the resultant giveback to the sport of polo.
All photos ©Kaylee Wroe.