In front of a large crowd, Sotheby’s knocked off pre-tournament favorite De Lago for a thrilling 5.5-5 victory Sunday in the first-ever National Blue Grass Women’s Polo Tournament.
The two-day tournament was the first Women’s Championship Tournament (WCT) qualifier held at Kentucky Horse Park’s John Henry Field in Lexington, Ky.
Lexington Polo Club made history by hosting the first-of-its-kind women’s tournament that attracted players from throughout the United States and from as far away as California.
With the win, Sotheby’s (Lexie Armstrong, Whitney Vogt, Tannis Marley, Melissa Hornung) qualified for the WCT Championship season-finale tournament in April 2015 at Grand Champions Polo Club in Wellington, Fla.
In the subsidiary game, Hardwick Clothing (Natalie Henton, Martha Bennett, Kelly Brophey, Cary Campbell) defeated Stewart Mercer (Ashlie Manno, Jackie Jolie, Meghan Ziobro, Emily Meyer), 2-1.5.
De Lago (Abby Jones, Stephanie Preston, Courtney Asdourian, Tracy Regas), a 9-goal team, tried to rally but 6-goal rated Sotheby’s, considered the underdog, put up an emotionally-charged defensive battle in the final minutes of the game.
Each Sotheby’s player scored a goal in the evenly-matched contest.
“We basically won as the underdog,” said Hornung, also the tournament coordinator.
“It was a war,” Hornung said. “Every one of these women played hard. There were hard ride-offs. Everyone was competitive. It was a very fast, back-and-forth game. It was high quality polo.
“It was hot but we kept it in check and were very respectful. At the end of the day we all shook hands.”
“We wanted to build morale and get people excited,” Hornung said. “We had great gifts from Nespresso, silver cups for each player, grooming bags, boot bags, ulcer guard. It was just fantastic.”
There was also great support from Lexington Polo Club president Chet Lott and vice president James Miller, both breathing new life into the polo club since 2013, and University of Kentucky sorority sisters including a tournament ambassador.
The women’s tournament is one of several special events, tournaments and tailgates the club hopes to cultivate in the future.
“This put us back on the map in so many ways,” Hornung said. “A lot of people locally didn’t realize we had polo let alone a women’s polo tournament playing. We were getting phone calls that morning asking what field it was on and about the tailgates. It was so important to get the word out and we did that.”
It was the first time since 2004 a women’s tournament had been held in Lexington.
“This is the perfect place for polo, you have history here,” Hornung said. “This is the capital of horse country. Next year we would like to make it even bigger and engage more of the junior players and have a whole new bracket just for the juniors. We want to build the up-and-coming crop.”
Hornung said she talked with WCT founder Sunny Hale before, during and after the tournament and couldn’t help but get emotional. The WCT, celebrating its tenth season, is the largest women’s polo league in the world where female players of all levels compete.
“It was such a reward for women who have been involved in the game for so many years,” Hornung said. “It was emotional. It was just the adrenaline and the fact we won. All the women had so much fun, there were so many high moments. It was a great success.”
Sharon Robb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org