Aug 09, 2021 4:21 PM
“This is a great cup and we have now won it three times and to have our name back on here—it's a good day” – Ben Soleimani, Team Owner BenSoleimani.com
The final of the USPA America Cup®, serving as the subsidiary of the Silver Cup®, featured defending champions Santa Clara (Federico Escobar, Lucas Escobar*, Nico Escobar*, Luis Escobar) against Bensoleimani.com (Ben Soleimani, Santiago Wulff, Ignacio "Iñaki" Laprida, Tomas Alberdi*) on Sunday, August 8 at Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club (Carpinteria, California). Utilizing a family line-up, Santa Clara was in search of a second consecutive title, but ran into a determined Bensoleimani.com that overcame tough losses earlier in the season by changing their strategy and bringing Laprida forward in the game. The game high-scorer with six goals, Laprida led Bensoleimani.com to the 14-11 victory, gaining momentum for the upcoming Pacific Coast Open.
Entering the final with a one-goal advantage on handicap, Santa Clara used the opening chukker to extend the difference, beginning with a Penalty 2 conversion by Lucas Escobar. Santa Clara kept their lead at two, after Luis Escobar and Bensoleimani.com’s Laprida traded goals to end the first chukker. After facing three losses in the Silver Cup®, all by just one or two goals, Bensoleimani.com were eager to snatch the victory, deploying Laprida at the front of the game attacking, leaving Wulff and Alberdi to man the defensive end.
“We are working on positions and who goes up and who stays back in transition and it's been going well, but today probably was the best day we had.” – Santiago Wulff
The strategy proved to be effective as Bensoleimani.com produced six unanswered goals to finish the first half, beginning with two goals from Laprida in the second chukker on Open Kilovatio. Despite contributing on defense, Alberdi scored three straight opportunities at goal in the third chukker to leave Bensoleimani.com holding a 7-4 lead.
A competitive second half resulted in significant contributions from all eight players on the field, each finding the scoresheet. Nico Escobar helped end the drought for Santa Clara by accurately shooting to goal, scoring two field goals in the fourth chukker, but Bensoleimani.com’s Laprida continued to execute at the front of the game, matching the two goals to maintain the three-goal lead. Demonstrating unwavering resolve, Bensoleimani.com used the fifth chukker to cement their victory by playing end-to-end polo with Alberdi driving forward for two goals, while Soleimani added his first goal of the game.
“The second half of the game felt like we were all playing as a team” stated Soleimani, with Wulff also contributing a goal to give Bensoleimani.com the five-goal lead entering the final chukker. Santa Clara finished the game very strong with three consecutive field goals, but it was not enough to pull even with Bensoleimani.com, who raised the USPA America Cup® with a final score 14-11.
Capturing the USPA America Cup with Restoration Hardware in 2013 and 2018, Ben Soleimani added his name to the trophy for a third time. “This is a great cup and we have now won it three times and to have our name back on here—it's a good day,” exclaimed Soleimani. After three narrow losses in Farmers & Merchants Bank Silver Cup® bracket play, Bensoleimani.com avenged their loss to Santa Clara and claimed the title with a renewed mindset. “We were working really hard on our team performing better. That was our goal.,” said Wulff. “We didn’t think about them [Santa Clara] so much. We thought about us.” Alberdi echoed his teammate, “we came in with a different attitude…this was a good game to get that bad luck off our shoulders.”
Finishing with five goals, Alberdi was named Most Valuable Player. The Team USPA Alumni explained the importance of the strategy shift for Bensoleimani.com, bringing Laprida forward in the game. “We switched it up a bit [at half] for Iñaki [Laprida] to be more upfront with the ball, which is our best player attacking and Santi [Wulff] and I switched up in the back, which I think really worked out.”
Best Playing Pony was awarded to Open Kilovatio (Ellerstina Picaro x Karenza), a thirteen-year-old Argentine dark bay gelding, owned by Ben Soleimani and played by Laprida in the second and sixth chukkers. Open Kilovatio was in Alberdi’s string for the earlier Farmers & Merchants Bank Silver Cup® games. “A few days ago, Tomy [Alberdi] came to me and said to try him…I played him in practice on Friday and it went well, so I played him again today and it went really well. I’m not giving him back [for the Pacific Coast Open],” he said with a smile. “He’s a big horse, a really strong horse and has the power to run. If you’re able to get a little bit of space to make a run, he’s the fastest one. Even though he’s bigger, you don’t mind him being that big and you feel like you are closer to the ground. The horse was suited well for today, running more and going forward.”
Turning their attention to the upcoming Pacific Coast Open, Bensoleimani.com will draw from their victory in the USPA America Cup®. “We really wanted to win and winning this means a lot for everybody and the horses are fresh,” Alberdi commented. “Hopefully we can go into the Pacific Coast Open with our heads up now.”
*Lucas and Nico Escobar are Active Team USPA Members and Tomas Alberdi is a Team USPA alumni. 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 courtesy of ©David Lominska.
Effective Date: Saturday, May 16, 2020
The suspension of USPA Tournaments and Events will be lifted for USPA Member Clubs in locales where hosting polo matches and tournaments is permitted under applicable state and local laws, executive orders and similar decrees. The USPA Member Clubs in these locales are encouraged to follow all such requirements of their state and local authorities with respect to polo operations. In addition, we also encourage all USPA Member Clubs to take the precautions recommended by the CDC. We are preparing a detailed list of best practices for USPA Member Clubs as they return to hosting USPA Tournaments and Events and plan to circulate these guidelines within the next week. We will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation closely and will notify you if we determine a different course of action is necessary.Read More