Jun 05, 2020 7:22 PM

BTA Steve Krueger Horsegate Shane Rice Kaylee Wroe web
Horsegate's Shane Rice and BTA's Steve Krueger battle for possession.

Emerging from the semifinals both 3-0, BTA (Chrys Beal, KC Krueger, Steve Krueger*, TJ Elordi) and Horsegate (Nick Stefanakis, Lance Stefanakis, Shane Rice, Alejandro Gonzalez) clashed in the Regional President’s Cup Final on Thursday afternoon, June 4, in Houston Polo Club’s (Houston, Texas) first national tournament of the season. A tight game throughout all four chukkers, BTA regained the narrow lead in the final chukker by way of Steve Krueger to claim the win 5.5-5 and priority entry for the National President’s Cup.

Flanked by his teammates, BTA team captain Steve Krueger was able to gain possession of the ball to open up the first, a theme that would continue throughout the remainder of the game. “Steve [Krueger] was very adamant about us working with the man away from the ball,” KC Krueger said about her husband. “TJ [Elordi] and I tried to spread the defenders out while my mom [Chrys Beal] was our offensive target.” Horsegate answered back twice to match Krueger's goal for goal in the first half, but BTA held on to their half-goal lead on handicap at halftime 2.5-2.

BTA Steve Krueger on a run Kaylee Wroe web
BTA's Steve Krueger on a run to goal.

Returning to the field with a strong offensive strategy, Horsegate fired three consecutive goals between the posts, propelling themselves into the lead for the first time. “We knew they [Horsegate] were a strong second half team so we tried to dig down and keep playing our game by dominating the defenders without the ball,” KC Krueger revealed. Responding with two back-to-back goals in the third, Steve Krueger rose to the occasion and kept the momentum going to bring his team back within a half goal. Shutting out Horsegate completely in the final chukker, BTA positioned Steve Krueger with a final opportunity to score, their collective efforts earning the title 5.5-5.

Although the high-scorer of the game, Krueger commented that the team’s versatility was the real key to their success in the tournament. “We [BTA] played against very different teams in every game, so there were no two games where we had the same job,” Steve Krueger commented. “The ability of the team to adapt positions is what made us successful. Our strategy for the final was to keep Shane [Rice] from controlling the game from the back, so we tried to use Chrys [Beal] up front as much as possible.”

Lance Stefanakis’ Turbito, who he played in the third chukker, was named Best Playing Pony Amateur.
Best Playing Pony Amateur was awarded to Lance Stefanakis’ Turbito, played in the third chukker.

Exclusively scoring all of BTA’s goals, Steve Krueger was named Most Valuable Player. “KC [Krueger] and TJ [Elordi] did a great job of working with their men and Chrys [Beal] was able to make some very good carries with the ball,” Steve Krueger said. “Because all of them played well it gave me a little more time and freedom with the ball.” Best Playing Pony honors were awarded to Sapphire, a 13-year old mare raised and trained by Archie Salinas. “She has won multiple Best Playing Pony awards in Houston,” Krueger said. “In the final I played her in the second half of the first chukker and the first half of the last chukker.”

Lance Stefanakis’ Turbito, who he played in the third chukker, was named Best Playing Pony Amateur.

*BTA KC Beal Neckshot, Horsegate's Lance Stefanakis on hip. ©Kaylee Wroe thumbnail
BTA's KC Beal goes for a neckshot with Horsegate's Lance Stefanakis on her hip.

In addition to the trophy, BTA also received $2,500.00 in prize money from participating in the COVID-19 USPA Polo Tournament Stimulus Package. “We decided to give a portion of the earnings to the professional players as bonuses and another portion we donated to the Manna House which is a nonprofit men’s addiction recovery home in Brookshire, Texas,” KC Krueger said. Welcoming tournament play back to the Houston Polo Club, the players were happy to be back on the field again. “That was the best part, putting our whites back on and competing again!” Steve Krueger added.

*Steve Krueger 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 ©Kaylee Wroe.