Twelve teams entered the 2020 U.S. Open Women’s Handicap with the conclusion on Saturday, November 14, at Houston Polo Club in a final that came down to the dying seconds between Aspen Snowmass (Morgan McBride, Stephanie Massey Colburn*, Anna Winslow-Palacios*, KC Krueger) and Villa Ecleto (Morgan Tennant, Katie George, Mia Bray*, Alyson Poor). Displaying an offense with quick runs to goal, Aspen Snowmass produced nine more shot attempts, including a strong final chukker to come from behind and claim the 4-3.5 victory as time expired.
“It was such an incredible experience to play with the ladies on the Aspen Snowmass team. I loved our team dynamic and the positive energy displayed throughout this very competitive ladies tournament. We strategized for each team we played and were able to execute effectively. It was a hard fought, very close final, but it all came together in the end!” – Stephanie Massey Colburn
Facing a 0.5 goal difference on handicap at the onset of the game, Aspen Snowmass quickly took the lead on a pass from Winslow-Palacios setting up Krueger’s first goal. The duo continued to work well together, extending their lead to 1.5 after Winslow-Palacios scored a goal of her own. An organized defense for Aspen Snowmass prevented any open runs to goal for Villa Ecleto and exited the first chukker leading 2-0.5. Continuing to apply pressure on the offensive end, Aspen Snowmass shot at goal four times in the second chukker but were unable to find the mark. Despite the inaccurate shooting, Aspen Snowmass continued to excel defensively holding Villa Ecleto to zero field goals. A penalty conversion for Bray was Villa Ecleto’s only offense of the half, but they trailed by just half a goal heading into the remaining two chukkers of regulation play.
Coming alive in the second half, Villa Ecleto surged into the lead behind the play of Bray, scoring two goals in the third chukker to give Villa Ecleto their first lead at 3.5-2. Held off the scoreboard for the second consecutive chukker, Aspen Snowmass returned to their successful formula from the first, using an exceptional defense to keep the ball in the attacking half. Krueger pulled her team back within half a goal as time began to click down with Villa Ecleto narrowly holding on to the lead. Inside the final two minutes, a determined Aspen Snowmass team pushed towards goal with Massey Colburn jumping on the loose ball and scoring the game-winning goal. Villa Ecleto were unable to produce a response in the final seconds as the horn sounded and Aspen Snowmass celebrated the 4-3.5 victory.
“It was a close game and Villa Ecleto was very well balanced. I felt like we gave each other confidence in our communication on the field and it was a pleasure to get to play on this team!” stated KC Krueger, who was awarded Most Valuable player, scoring two goals in the final.
“Each member of our team was disciplined in marking their man, which allowed KC [Krueger] to make crucial plays to move the ball down the field. It was a cool experience to be a part of such a renowned tournament with 12 extremely talented teams, and even cooler that we were able to pull off the win with such steep competition.” – Anna Winslow-Palacios
Best Playing Pony Professional went to Chica Buena, played by Mia Bray and owned by Ignacio Saenz. “I had a great third chukker on [Ignacio] Nacho Saenz’s mare Chica Buena” said Mia Bray. “She has a good mouth and lateral movements which gave me confidence with the ball.” Best Playing Pony Amateur was awarded to Payasa, owned by the Millers from Prestonwood Polo Club and played in the final by Morgan McBride.
The American Quarter Horse Association also awarded a Best Playing Pony to Stephanie Massey Colburn’s Boon Sugar Whiz, a seven-year old American quarter horse mare purchased from McFaddin Enterprises and bred by the Muleshoe Ranch in West Texas. “I have only had Boon Sugar Whiz a few months, but she has quickly become one of my favorite mounts due to her incredible handle and heart for the game.”
All photos courtesy of ©Kaylee Wroe Photography.
*Mia Bray is an active Team USPA member. Anna Winslow-Palacios and Stephanie Massey Colburn are Team USPA alumnae. 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.