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BRACKET I SEEDING FINALIZED IN USPA GOLD CUP®

Mar 22, 2021 9:26 PM

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Tonkawa's Sapo Caset and Park Place's Juan Britos closely marked in the last game of Bracket I. ©David Lominska
Tonkawa's Sapo Caset and Park Place's Juan Britos closely marked in the last game of Bracket I. ©David Lominska

Story courtesy of International Polo Club Palm Beach

The final day of play in bracket I of the USPA Gold Cup® determined the seeding of the four teams, with Park Place (Andrey Borodin, Juan Britos, Hilario Ulloa, Matt Coppola*) and Tonkawa (Jeff Hildebrand, Lucas Escobar*, Sapo Caset, Francisco Elizalde) battling for the top seed. The first game of the day resulted in Aspen/Dutta Corp (Timmy Dutta*, Lucas Diaz Alberdi, Gringo Colombres, Stewart Armstrong) capturing their first victory, defeating Cessna (Camp Campbell, Ezequiel Martinez Ferrario, Mariano Obregon Jr., Jared Zenni*) 11-10. Tonkawa and Park Place battled into overtime at the International Polo Club Palm Beach (Wellington, Florida) where Tonkawa completed their comeback to capture the 11-10 victory and the number one seed entering the semifinals.

Fighting for their first win in the tournament, Aspen/Dutta Corp and Cessna remained close throughout, never separated by more than three goals in the evenly matched game. Despite the close game, Aspen/Dutta Corp took their one-goal advantage on handicap and remained one step ahead of Cessna due to the eight-goal performance from Colombres. Despite shooting much more efficiently from the field, foul trouble hurt Cessna in the game, conceding eight penalty attempts and six goals to Aspen/Dutta Corp who claimed the narrow 11-10 victory.

Aspen/Dutta Corp's Lucas Diaz Alberdi taking the ball on the nearside against Cessna's Ezequiel Martinez Ferrario. ©Alex Pacheco
Aspen/Dutta Corp's Lucas Diaz Alberdi taking the ball on the nearside against Cessna's Ezequiel Martinez Ferrario. ©Alex Pacheco

A quick start for Aspen/Dutta Corp produced a three-goal lead as they added to their lead on handicap with a field goal and Penalty 4 conversion from Colombres. Cessna struggled to find their footing early with six combined fouls in the first chukker. Obregon Jr. converted a crucial Penalty 4 attempt to end the chukker, providing some momentum for Cessna. Trading penalty attempts, Colombres and Obregon Jr. kept the deficit at two, but Cessna was able to inch closer on Ferrario’s first goal of the game. Colombres continued to pace the Aspen/Dutta Corp offense, accounting for every one of his team’s goals in the first half and his team held the 6-5 advantage at halftime.

Aspen/Dutta Corp's Gringo Colombres leaning way out of the saddle to hit the backhand. ©David Lominska
Aspen/Dutta Corp's Gringo Colombres leaning way out of the saddle to hit the backhand. ©David Lominska

Foul trouble for Cessna proved to be a factor at the start of the second half, conceding two Penalty 2 conversions to Colombres. With their sights set on their first victory, Aspen/Dutta Corp pressured Cessna in the fifth chukker, trying to pull away with six shots at goal, but inaccurate one for six shooting kept Cessna within reach. Dutta scored his first goal for Aspen/Dutta Corp, but Cessna responded with one goal each from Zenni and Ferrario. Completing an exceptional performance, Colombres found Alberdi with a pass to seal the victory for Aspen/Dutta Corp with two late goals from Cessna not enough in the 11-10 defeat.

Tonkawa's Francisco Elizalde scored six goals in the victory over Park Place. ©Alex Pacheco
Tonkawa's Francisco Elizalde scored six goals in the victory over Park Place. ©Alex Pacheco

The two top teams in bracket I met to determine seeding for the semifinals and it was the relentless attack of Tonkawa that ultimately made the difference in the overtime victory. Park Place held control throughout the game with an efficient attack that shot 57% from the field and converted both penalty attempts, while focusing defensively on slowing down GAUNTLET OF POLO® scoring leader Caset, which they did effectively by holding him to just two goals. However, six goals from Elizalde and a strong final chukker for Tonkawa allowed them to fight back and win on the first play of overtime to take the number one seed in bracket I.

Making his first appearance of the season, Borodin returned to the Park Place line-up and his team produced a strong start with Ulloa and Britos collecting a goal and an assist each to build a 2-1 lead. Holding the potent Tonkawa attack scoreless in the second chukker, Park Place extended their lead to three, led by the play of Ulloa, who continued to provide offense both individually and by way of the pass. Converting just two of their 10 shots in the first half, Tonkawa received one goal each from Elizalde and Caset but were unable to pull any closer by halftime, trailing 6-3.

Tonkawa's Lucas Escobar just out of reach of Park Place's Juan Britos. ©David Lominska
Tonkawa's Lucas Escobar just out of reach of Park Place's Juan Britos. ©David Lominska

Finding their momentum in the game, Tonkawa provided a determined start to the second half with Elizalde stepping up with a goal and an assist as part of three-goal chukker that brought Tonkawa within one. Undeterred, Park Place turned to their 10-goaler Ulloa in the fifth chukker, scoring three consecutive goals and providing a dynamic attack that left Park Place ahead by three with one chukker remaining. Quiet throughout the early stages of the game, Escobar made a significant impact for Tonkawa in the sixth chukker with two goals, the second of which tied the game and sent the result into overtime. Just seconds into overtime, a long pass from Elizalde was placed right in front of the goal and it was Escobar who finished it off, securing the 11-10 overtime victory for Tonkawa.

*Lucas Escobar and Timmy Dutta are Active Team USPA Members. Matt Coppola and Jared Zenni are Graduating Team USPA Members. 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.

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