Jun 20, 2019 8:05 PM

Novis Insurance team owner Ivan Weiss.
Novis Insurance team owner Ivan Weiss.

The competition is heating up at Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club (Carpinteria, California) as six teams fight for a chance to earn a piece of the $50,000 prize money. The new high stakes tournament led to a few new names on the roster including John Muse’s Lucchese, Ben Soleimani’s and Ivan Weiss’ Novis Insurance, alongside defending champions Klentner Ranch and tournament staples Farmers & Merchants Bank and FMB Too!

The first game on Sunday morning, June 16, took place between and Lucchese. Both teams arrived at the field with winning records having defeated their opponents in the first round of bracket play on Friday, June 14. Very strong defense in the first half resulted in few goals scored, Soleimani leading 4-3 at halftime. Soleimani’s Felipe Vercellino entered the second half firing on goal, sinking three in the fourth chukker. However, Lucchese’s Jason Crowder fought back in the fifth scoring two goals from the field to close the gap and narrow the deficit to two entering the final chukker. Soleimani kept Lucchese scoreless in the sixth adding three more goals to the board to secure the win by a comfortable margin 12-7.

Lucchese's Jason Crowder moves in for the nearside as's Pipe Vercellino prepares for a backshot.
Lucchese's Jason Crowder and's Pipe Vercellino battle for possession.

The noon game was a matchup between Novis Insurance and Farmers & Merchants Bank (FMB). Lucas Criado, out from an injury, was replaced by 5-goaler Santiago Von Wernich. FMB, a 10-goal team, held onto the lead throughout the first half with the help of their two-goal handicap. A strong chukker by Novis Insurance in the fourth closed the gap to a single goal. FMB left Novis Insurance scoreless in the fifth however, creating a sizable advantage. FMB finished on top 13-11 maintaining their undefeated record.

The featured game on the grandstand field took place between Klentner Ranch and FMB Too! Zero goal player Megan Judge substituted for Omar Mangalji. Strong defense from both teams made for a very low scoring few chukkers. Patrick Uretz* scored two field goals at the beginning of the first leaving FMB Too! scoreless until the third. Three goals from Juan Monteverde placed FMB Too! in the lead 3-2 at the end of the third. A very close second half and a penalty shot in the last minute of the final chukker by Monteverde sent the game into overtime. After a long battle in overtime with many close shots on goal, FMB Too!’s Santiago Wulff shot from nearly midfield to win the game. “It was a very tough game and a long overtime chukker,” said Wulff. “I took a chance shooting at goal, in or out, I wanted to finish the play. It worked in our favor.” The game ended with a final score 9-8 in the seventh chukker.

*Patrick Uretz 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 ©David Lominska.