Oct 03, 2022 4:00 PM
Amid an action-packed fall season at Houston Polo Club (HPC) in Houston, Texas, the spotlight shifted to the conclusion of the Delegate’s Cup, as Island Time Polo/Sullivan Group (sub. Elle Seybold, Michelle Agrons, Joanie Jackson, Nick Cifuni, Cody Ellis*) met Kanthaka (Sylvia Kampshoff, Philipp Kampshoff, Joao Aranha, Marcos Villanueva) for the second time in the 6-goal tournament. Commanding the game from the start, a balanced effort from Island Time Polo/Sullivan Group kept Kanthaka scoreless in the first half. Despite Kanthaka’s comeback efforts, Island Time Polo/Sullivan Group’s efficient defense and a timely fourth chukker goal from Jackson allowed the team in black to claim the title 6-4.
Relying on familiarity to construct Island Time Polo/Sullivan Group’s initial roster, Jackson shared, “Nick and I have played together for a while, and he’s been my pro in everything for the past two or three years now.” Cifuni added, “I played with Michelle [Agrons] in the Pro-Am last season and she wanted to step-up to 6-goal. Cody is an amazing up-and-coming player; he was playing 12-goal here and had played 6-goal in the past—he’s a great teammate to have.”
Following an injury to Agrons early in bracket play and Jackson unable to compete in the first two games, Island Time Polo/Sullivan Group featured five substitutions over the course of the tournament including Joe Bob Lequerica, Carin Middleton, Kathryn Rizeakos, and Austin Gilbert, with Seybold as the last substitution on the roster playing the final. “I knew Elle from HPC”, said Jackson, “she was great to play with, stuck to her man, took direction really well, and really helped us out!”
Initiating a dominant first half, Island Time Polo/Sullivan Group struck early from the field on back-to-back field goals from Jackson and Cifuni in the opening chukker, followed by two more successful drives in the second, including Ellis’ first goal of the match to take a 4-0 halftime lead.
Reflecting on Island Time Polo/Sullivan Group’s shoutout first half, Jackson stated, “we all knew what we were supposed to do, who we were supposed to go for and how to execute set plays. Cody and Nick kept saying, ‘we’ve made it this far, go out there and have fun, and do what we know to do.’ We all know how to play polo well—it was about relying on muscle memory and not getting nervous.”
Regrouping during the break, Kanthaka finally found the scoreboard with contributions from Aranha and Villanueva. Then, trading goals, Ellis responded for Island Time Polo/Sullivan Group, as Sylvia Kampshoff sent the ball between the posts to cap off Kanthaka’s three-goal chukker.
Handing Island Time Polo/Sullivan Group their only loss of in bracket play, Jackson was aware of Kanthaka’s strengths in their anticipated rematch, “I’ve played against Sylvie, Philipp, and Marcos in countless other games through the seasons at HPC. Marcos is an extremely strong player and Sylvie and Philipp can carry the ball very well. We were watching and making sure we had our man early, so we didn’t let them make those breaks down the field to allow for goals. We wanted to keep everything on our end of the field and control the play.”
Cifuni added, “when we lost to them the first time, it was a tough back-and-forth game. All four of them can hit and run—you really have to mark everybody. We knew going into this we were going to have to be patient and cut out fouls.”
Trailing by just two, Aranha struck once more to open the fourth to bring Kanthaka within reach, but a final goal from Jackson sealed the 6-4 victory for Island Time Polo/Sullivan Group.
Contributing on both sides of the ball, including scoring the final goal for Island Time Polo/Sullivan Group, Joanie Jackson was named Most Valuable Player. “It was tough moving through the tournament with substitutions, but it was a great game, a great team to play against, and we ended up coming out on top,” said Jackson. Praising Jackson’s play, Cifuni shared, “Joanie definitely deserved MVP, I’m super proud of her. Her position on the field has gotten much better, she made a lot of crucial backshots and got the ball out of the red zone. When Kanthaka was within one and really breathing down our necks, she was able to make a great goal at the end, which was the nail in the coffin!”
Nena, Cody Ellis’ six-year-old mare played in the second chukker was awarded Best Playing Pony. “I bought her this past winter in Florida from Whistle Uys,” said Ellis, “she hasn’t had much tournament polo—this is actually the first white pants polo she’s played, so it’s a really cool achievement and makes the BPP mean that much more. Hopefully it means she’s got a big future ahead of her!”
Acknowledging the development of a robust 6-goal at HPC with 10 teams, Cifuni noted, “competition here is super difficult and everyone is really well mounted. I think we can contribute that to Mark Prinsloo bringing people with the polo school we have. It really contributes to getting these sponsors to move up from the Pro-Am to get to the next level.”
Turning to the remainder of the 6-goal season at HPC, Jackson shared, “I’m really excited to continue playing with this team. It’s been super fun, and I’m excited to keep the ball rolling and see what else we can do!”
*Cody Ellis is Team USPA alumnus. 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 ©Kaylee Wroe.
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