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Goose Greek defends title in WCT final at Grand Champions

Tess Pimsner and her Titaniums teammates Allie Azzaro, Jaqui Casey and Riley Ganzi were all smiles after making history at the Women’s Championship Tournament’s inaugural Junior Invitational Saturday at Grand Champions Polo Club. Not only did the girls team make the history books, but won the first ever game with a thrilling 6-5 victory over the Diamonds. Ganzi scored the tying goal and in the final seconds of the game Pimsner scored the winning goal, her fourth of the game.
“You don’t really think about it when it’s happening but later when people are talking ‘oh, it’s the first,’ I will be like, I was in that,” said Pimsner, 14, an eighth grader from Aiken, S.C. who came to Wellington for a week with her mother. Both parents play polo. “I think I had a good team, I think it was fair,” Pimsner said. “Because I’m from Aiken I didn’t really know anyone down here. It was fun playing with them. I looked up at the clock and saw two minutes and knew we were going to win.”
Like most of the junior girls, Pimsner started playing at an early age. “I was playing polo before I could walk,” said Pimsner, who also played soccer and ran track. “I hope to be playing in the WCT tournament when I get older.”
Sunny Hale, founder of the WCT tournament and one of the top women’s players in the world, decided to sit out this year’s tournament to focus on the junior girls tournament. Hale coached the Titaniums while Gillian Johnston, team captain of Coca-Cola, coached the Diamonds with Hope Arellano, Malia Bryan, Mia Cambiaso and Olivia Merlos.
Merlos’ horse Canella was named Best Playing Pony and Arellano’s horse Sweet Stuff won runner-up for Best Playing Pony. It was Arellano’s second BPP honor in a week with Cicatriz ridden by older brother Lucas in an April 2 junior tournament.
Both Bryan and Pimsner travelled from Aiken, S.C. to compete in the juniors event.
In the WCT finals, defending champion Goose Creek defeated Prima, 14-9.5 to win the 3-6 title. Members of the winning team were Cardinal Newman High School alum Alina Carta, Maureen Brennan, Tiffany Busch and Kristy Waters Outhier. “Every time I hit the field I look at it as a finals,” said Busch, 26, of Vero Beach. “You never know. These guys can change horses around or positions so you always have to go out there with your guns blazing. This is what I train for, I love it,” Busch said. “It was an honor playing on this team.”
Busch, who also coaches junior girls, is encouraged by the junior tournament’s potential. “I didn’t have this when I was growing up,” Busch said. “What Sunny has done for the up and coming women players is amazing, cheers to her. I try to coach my girls ‘come on, you want to train to play in the WCT, you have no idea what it brings, you can go travel virtually the world.’”
Carta, a veteran player, has been a role model for women’s polo players for decades. She has been playing since she was seven. Busch calls her “my idol who I look up to.” “There was only myself and one other girl (Vicki Armour) that played polo back then,” Carta said. “It’s great to see all these girls playing, supported and encouraged is phenomenal. And, they’re good. We have come a long way for women’s polo.”
In the 0-2 final, Morgan Stanley defeated Coast to Coast, 4-2. Winning team members were Katie Monahan, Jessica Riemann, Jennifer Williams and Jolie Liston.
Lia Salvo of Prima was named Most Valuable Player of the 3-6 goal game. Kristy Waters Outhier’s homebred horse San Miguel was named Best Playing Pony. Veteran player Maureen Brennan of Coast to Coast was named MVP of the 0-2 goal competition. Brennan was the only player to compete in both the 3-6 and 0-2 games. Anegla York’s horse XuXa was named Best Playing Pony. Brennan and Cecelia Cochran of Prima were given a special award for participating in the WCT since its inception in 2005.
The tournament attracted a record eight teams with highly-skilled players rated from 0 to 6 goals. The future of women’s polo looks brighter than ever, according to newly-named WCT Honorary Commissioner Dale Smicklas, a former 8-goaler. “One of the things that strikes me, that’s always been important to me is horsemanship at the top level of women’s polo today,” Smicklas said. “It’s incredible to me the way these girls sit on a horse and help a horse play the game.
“One of the reasons I enjoy women’s polo is I see so much horsemanship,” Smicklas said. “They have the ability to get to plays because they are not fighting the horse. This is more like old school polo was–hitting and running, team play, taking a man, communicating and passing. In my day, that’s what was beautiful about polo.
“I am attracted to watch women’s polo as much as I am to men’s. I am a big fan of women’s polo. It’s by far the fastest growing sector of polo, not only in the United States, but in the world. It’s got a lot of momentum behind it.”
Grand Champions Polo Club owners Marc and Melissa Ganzi hosted the two-day event and treated fans and players to breakfast and lunch from Cilantro’s.

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