With the fresh memories of a disappointing defeat in the 2020 U.S. Open Women’s Polo Championship Final, BTA/The Villages’ Kylie Sheehan, Paige Boone, KC Krueger, and Tiffany Busch turned the narrow loss into motivation headed into the 2021 rematch against two-time defending champions Hawaii Polo Life with Dolores Onetto, Pamela Flanagan, Mia Cambiaso, and Hazel Jackson on the team.
Once again emerging as the two strongest teams in the tournament with undefeated 3-0 records, the finalists met in the U.S. Polo Association Field 1 on March 20, each fueled by the significance of winning the prestigious trophy. Remaining locked in a tie after three chukkers of play, the teams pushed the game down to the wire with Paige claiming the game-winning neck shot in the last minute of regulation. Preventing Hawaii Polo Life from sealing a historical three-peat victory, BTA/The Villages took their place as the new champions with a final score of 6-5.
Coming out with the mindset to make every second count, Hazel fired a neck shot from a distance to score a goal for Hawaii Polo Life within the first 30 seconds of play. Proving her accuracy from the penalty line in the previous final, KC stepped up and converted a Penalty 2 to match the scoreboard and end the chukker.
Trading goals with Hazel in the second chukker, the BTA/The Villages relied on their teammates to be in the right position to finish off shots on goal.
“The strategy was just to be really disciplined with Hazel and Mia especially when they were away from the ball because they are so well-mounted,” BTA/The Villages coach Tommy Biddle says. “Hazel has very good game sense so the team tried to put pressure on her away from the ball and force her to work for every play she made.”
Picking up her first goal of the day, Kylie carried Tiffany’s shot through the goalposts on the nearside, but was quickly countered by Hawaii Polo Life’s strong drive to goal with an assist from Pamela. Giving the ball the final push needed to reach the goal, Paige contributed to the scoreboard and simultaneously tied the game at halftime with 3-all.
“We came into the final with a game plan, but it was about having intensity and high energy and just being disciplined—and it paid off for us,” she explains.
Hawaii Polo Life opened the second half with a complete team effort. Pamela made a quick backshot to save the ball, setting up Mia who scored her first goal of the day. Taking advantage of penalty opportunities, KC leveled the playing field for the third time with another Penalty 2 conversion.
As the pressure mounted headed into the fourth chukker, every second became even more critical as KC added a third Penalty 2 to the tally. Retrieving the ball lodged in a divot, Hazel scored her fourth goal and equalized the score with 5-all with only a few minutes before the final horn.
Boldly going for the goal with now under a minute remaining, BTA/The Villages’ Paige gained possession off a pass from Tiffany and made a powerful neck shot on Viru, sealing the well-deserved victory 6-5.
“Tommy told us before we went into the final chukker, ‘you worked really hard to get here, you’re tied, and this is your time. So if you want it bad enough, go and get it.’ And we did!” Paige shares.
As the only all-American team in the tournament, BTA/The Villages was especially proud to add their name to the most prestigious cup in women’s polo in the United States.
“Having a team of four local players made the win that much more special because we showed them what we can do,” Kylie offers. “We’re all playing our own horses and running our own organizations. I think it’s very exciting for American polo going forward and I know a ton of amazing up-and-coming American players, so I’m hoping to see more all- American teams.”
Taking on a fierce opponent in Hawaii Polo Life, BTA/The Villages’ commitment and positive attitude eventually paid off with the trophy.
“This win means the world. To be able to go 4-0 in a 22-goal tournament like this just goes to show you how deep we can go as a team,” Tiffany muses. “We’ve had our opportunities in the past and the beautiful thing about this team is we all just played as one and nobody gave up. We continued to give each other positive reinforcement nonstop.”
“I have been trying to win this tournament since 2012 so this win was huge!” KC adds. “Obviously, I wish my mom [Chrys Beal] could have been out there with me. We tried so many times at Houston Polo Club, but still, to play with an all-American team is amazing.”
Bringing in a coach for the first time, BTA/The Villages gained so much from having the expertise of Tommy Biddle. “Tommy’s such an experienced player and he has so much knowledge about the game,” Kylie says. “He kept us level-headed and gave us very simple tasks. Between chukkers he broke it down for us and I think that’s what gave us the edge today, so I couldn’t be more grateful.”
BTA/The Villages’ Kylie Sheehan was named Most Valuable Player. “This is definitely the most exciting win of my career!” Kylie exclaims. “I’ve never played in the U.S. Polo Association Field 1 and I’ve only played at International Polo Club Palm Beach once during the 2020 U.S. Open Women’s Polo Championship Final. We came back today really hungry and we felt really confident. We believed in each other and all four of us played our part on the team.”
Best Playing Pony honors were presented to El Pico, played by Mia Cambiaso in the third chukker. “He’s amazing and easy to play, and I also played him in the 2020 U.S. Open Women’s Polo Championship Final,” Mia shares. “My father [Adolfo Cambiaso] lent him to me. We recently bought him from Lindor Novillo and my father will play him in the USPA Gold Cup game with Scone.”
Located in different parts of the state between south and central Florida, BTA/The Villages often utilized the convenience of Zoom for their team meetings.
“It was a true COVID-19 win that way!” Kylie remarks. “I’m super proud of each and every one of us because we put in the time and effort doing Zoom calls at 7:30am. Even though I’m driving down from Vero Beach and Paige is coming from The Villages, we all still made it work. We were able to get a couple of good practices in. Also being able to ride our own horses made a huge difference.”
Despite limited attendance due to club protocols, BTA/The Villages’ friends and family kept the players energized and in good spirits throughout the game.
“The cheering was great! It really motivates you, especially during the times we were down by a goal,” Paige says. “They’re screaming when you’re coming to change horses and it just lifts you up when you’re riding back onto the field.”
Representing Flying Cow, Houston, The Villages, and Vero Beach polo clubs, the women of BTA/The Villages are an example of hard-working women working together and persevering to achieve a common goal.
“We don’t travel the world and play polo; we run polo schools and clubs here in the U.S. I think it’s a little more challenging for us, but we can come together and play with the best players in the world and I think it just shows that we are just as capable of winning. It was a really great experience for us and to know that we can play our positions and complete a goal. American women polo players are definitely on the rise!” KC ends.