Jun 12, 2023 10:15 PM
Continuing to celebrate and honor icons and individuals who have made a profound impact on the sport of American Polo, the Lisle Nixon Memorial joins the Stephen Orthwein Memorial Cup, Sunny Hale Memorial and the Pont Clear Memorial as the final installment in the 2023 Legacy Polo Series. Stemming from a USPA initiative to recognize individual memorial tournaments at the medium-goal level, the Legacy Polo Series aims to tie the rich history of the sport and create a prestigious series that unites clubs around the country.
A three-goaler hailing from Butte, Montana, Lisle Nixon was renowned for his ability to organize and manage numerous clubs including, Eldorado in California, and Midland and Willow Bend in Texas. Hired in 1976 as manager of Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club (Carpinteria, California), Nixon balanced his management and polo career until his passing in 1977.
“We didn’t lose one game and it was a flawless tournament for us. This really showed what we have to bring to the tournament.” – Dundas II's Cable Magness
Held in front of the grandstand on Field 2 at Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club on Sunday, June 4, the finale of the Lisle Nixon Memorial proved to be a gripping match from the first throw-in. Both teams undefeated entering the final, La Karina (Brian Boyd, Hope Arellano*, Jared Zenni*, Carlitos Gracida) and Dundas II (Cable Magness, Paquito de Narvaez, Roberto “Robertito” Zedda, Cody Ellis*) vied for the third 12-goal title of the season.
Dundas II’s Cable Magness spoke about their formidable opponents, “We played one game against La Karina and they were a tough team. I think they are the toughest team out here and they have given us the most trouble.” It was a sentiment shared by de Narvaez, “La Karina is a very balanced team, with four experienced players”, while Ellis shared the preparation that went into Sunday’s final. “We watched a little bit of video and did some homework on the La Karina team who’s been doing very well here.” Dundas II’s path to the final was decided after a tough semifinal against Bensoleimani.com. “It was a close game right until the end. That helped us wake up and be a bit more on it for Sunday’s game,” said Ellis. The result was a must-see match that treated spectators to an overtime chukker to determine the victor.
“Hope took out the main guy on the other team most of the time, so we need to figure out a way around that… she’s been playing unbelievably.” – Dundas II's Cody Ellis on the play of Hope Arellano
In the opening chukker, each team was finding their footing, resulting in an evenly-matched seven minutes and a 1-all score after goals from Ellis and Zenni. Dundas II raced ahead by two in the second but a Penalty 5 conversion from Zenni cut the deficit in half. While the first two chukkers were played at a quick pace, the umpire’s whistle slowed play before halftime. Two penalty goals for Dundas II off the mallets of de Narvaez and Zedda, were countered by their opponents, as was the case through much of the game. La Karina’s Arellano hit a backshot through the posts for her first goal on the day. Inside the final 30 seconds of the half, Gracida added another goal for La Karina to tie the score 5-all.
Arellano’s second goal extended La Karina’s consecutive goal run to four, placing them in the lead for the first time. Making her impact on the game was noticed by Dundas II when studying their opponent’s semifinal as shared by Ellis. “Hope took out the main guy on the other team most of the time, so we need to figure out a way around that… she’s been playing unbelievably.” Dundas II recovered from the La Karina surge for a run of their own, scoring an angled backshot, Ellis ignited Dundas II as momentum continued to swing back-and-forth. A field goal and penalty conversion for de Narvaez pushed Dundas II back into the lead as they seemed to find their stride in a dominant fifth chukker. “For the past games this tournament, we have not sat down at halftime because we wanted to keep that motivation going, and plan while we are standing up,” shared Magness, who along with Ellis, continued to drive the Dundas II attack forward. Overcoming an impressive neckshot from Jared Zenni, Dundas II entered the final chukker with a significant 11-7 lead. Displaying much-needed urgency, La Karina received three penalty attempts, the last of which tied the score 11-11. With time ticking down, Arellano approached goal and with five seconds left, but her shot sailed just wide, sending the thrilling final into overtime.
“For the past games this tournament, we have not sat down at halftime because we wanted to keep that motivation going, and plan while we are standing up.” – Dundas II's Cable Magness
Watching their lead disappear in the final seconds of regulation, Ellis relied on his experience for the young Dundas II team. “My biggest role is trying to point Paquito in the right direction, with him being young, and just trying to keep everybody’s heads cool when things aren’t going well.” When play resumed, open, flowing polo highlighted the first four minutes of overtime as the two teams continued to exchange possession. “Our whole plan was to stretch out the field and not let it get too messy… Jared [Zenni] is really good at getting the ball out of crowded spaces so we wanted to shut him down,” Magness recounted. After the scoreless stretch, it was a foul that sent young de Narvaez to the 40-yard line for a penalty attempt for Dundas II that put the conclusion in sight. Confidently stepping up, de Narvaez scored the Penalty 3 and Dundas II celebrated the 12-11 victory.
A regular competitor in Santa Barbara, Magness was ecstatic following the win, with titles continuing to elude him in previous years. “I haven’t won since 2020 so it was a big win for me and our team.” Magness continued by saying, “We didn’t lose one game and it was a flawless tournament for us. This really showed what we have to bring to the tournament, and I was very happy after two years of not winning anything.” Making his impact on the victory, Magness reflected on the team’s strategy that ultimately helped them gain the winning edge. “On their knock-ins, I was supposed to keep Boyd from attacking Roberto and Cody. That worked very well as Boyd wasn’t able to score a goal and that secured the win for us.”
“It’s my first time playing in California and my first time playing with Dundas so it’s a really big win for me.” – Most Valuable Player Cody Ellis
Scoring four field goals while also displaying an impressive defensive ability, Dundas II’s Cody Ellis was awarded Most Valuable Player. “It’s my first time playing in California and my first time playing with Dundas so it’s a really big win for me,” reflected Ellis, who continued by saying “We’re all quite well mounted. We tried to just keep it as simple as possible and move the ball quickly and down the middle of the field.” Best Playing Pony was presented to Dolfina Legendaria, played by Robertito Zedda.
*Hope Arellano is an Active Team USPA Member and Jared Zenni and Cody Ellis are 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