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HILLCROFT REACHES NEW HEIGHTS AND CLAIMS REPEAT VICTORY IN THE NATIONAL INTER-CIRCUIT CHAMPIONSHIP

Mar 30, 2022 2:52 PM

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2022 National Inter-Circuit Championship Champions: Hillcroft - Vaughn Miller Jr., Mason Wroe, Ignacio "Nachi" Viana, James Miller.
2022 National Inter-Circuit Championship Champions: Hillcroft - Vaughn Miller Jr., Mason Wroe, Ignacio "Nachi" Viana, James Miller.

Now in its third year at Sarasota Polo Club, the National Inter-Circuit Championship returned to offer a high stakes finale to the 12-goal Sarasota season. The electrifying finals of the Sarasota bound tournament took place on Sunday, March 27, and featured a rematch of last year’s title game between Hillcroft (Vaughn Miller Jr., Ignacio “Nachi” Viana, Mason Wroe*, James Miller) and Glen Farm (Sam Clemens, Horacio “Flaco” Lizaso, Stuart Campbell, Tommy Collingwood).

Losing only once to Tito’s in bracket play, Hillcroft was able to avenge their singular loss of the tournament in the semifinals to capture a spot over Tito’s in the title game. Glen Farm edged out Barefield in their respective semifinal to earn a place on the field in Sunday’s championship.

“Nachi is a special talent…he brought the best out of us and we worked hard to bring the best out of him.”  – Vaughn Miller Jr.

Both teams boasting a 2-1 record entering the final, the match was guaranteed to be a fiercely fought game right up until the very end. Ultimately, Glen Farm put together an impressive second half effort, but Hillcroft’s ability to capitalize on penalties and available field opportunities throughout the game gave them an edge to hold onto the win and capture back-to-back National Inter-Circuit Championship trophies.

New to the team this year and already thriving after winning the Commander-In-Chief Cup earlier this month, Viana has been a major asset to Hillcroft since his arrival. “He’s a young, hungry player,” said teammate Wroe reflecting on Viana’s success with Hillcroft, “and he’s definitely on the rise. He brings a lot of confidence to the team and a lot of positive energy.” Miller Jr. also chimed in, noting that, “Nachi is a special talent…he brought the best out of us and we worked hard to bring the best out of him.”

Hillcroft's Ignacio "Nachi" Viana contributed nine goals in Hillcroft's National Inter-Circuit Championship.
Hillcroft's Ignacio "Nachi" Viana contributed nine goals in Hillcroft's National Inter-Circuit Championship.

Miller, having played with Viana (or as he endearingly refers to him “the assassin”) for the past year in other 14-goal tournaments, marveled at Viana’s personal growth, sharing, “It has been amazing, and a privilege, to watch him grow as a player and develop into a great team captain and leader on the field.”

Hillcroft’s strong offensive presence was apparent from the start of the game. Scoring five unanswered goals in the first two chukkers, Viana, Wroe and Miller Jr. all found the scoreboard, rocketing Hillcroft to a 6-1 lead moving into the third chukker. “Our strong start was a testament to our team’s camaraderie and confidence heading into the game,” Miller Jr. discussed. “We all knew our jobs and we executed right away.”

Hillcroft’s strong offensive presence was apparent from the start of the game. Scoring five unanswered goals in the first two chukkers, Viana, Wroe and Miller Jr. all found the scoreboard, rocketing Hillcroft to a 6-1 lead moving into the third chukker. “Our strong start was a testament to our team’s camaraderie and confidence heading into the game,” Miller Jr. discussed. “We all knew our jobs and we executed right away.”

Hillcroft's Mason Wroe carries the ball on a breakaway.
Hillcroft's Mason Wroe carries the ball on a breakaway.

After an underwhelming first two chukkers for Glen Farm, Collingwood was able to reinvigorate his team’s offense, scoring all of Glen Farm’s three goals in the first half. Glen Farm was also able to put forth a collaborative defensive effort, holding Hillcroft scoreless in the third chukker to end the half trailing by three, 6-3.

Coming back hungry for the win in the second half, Hillcroft was determined to get back on the scoreboard. Taking advantage of every opportunity, Viana nailed all three of his penalty shots in the fourth chukker to bring Hillcroft up to nine total goals. At the same time, Hillcroft’s increased defensive efforts kept Glen Farm scoreless in the fourth chukker, bringing the score to 9-3 in favor of Hillcroft with two chukkers remaining. “Our roles were to really create space for Nachi to create his magic,” detailed Wroe. “We really tried to work hard away from the ball and to work hard with our men and to stay disciplined.”

Ignacio "Nachi" Viana claimed his second consecutive Most Valuable Player award of the season at Sarasota Polo Club.
Ignacio "Nachi" Viana claimed his second consecutive Most Valuable Player award of the season at Sarasota Polo Club.

The final two chukkers, however, saw a shift in power. Seeming to lose their grip on the game, Hillcroft committed four fouls between the fifth and sixth chukkers. As a result, Glen Farm quickly began closing the deficit by converting three Penalty 2’s off the mallet of Clemens. Making an effort from the field as well, Glen Farm’s Lizaso and Collingwood were able to each punch one through the goal posts to bring the score within three. During the fifth chukker, Glen Farm was also able to keep Hillcroft off the board altogether, completely shutting down their strong offensive drive. But with their powerhouse first half and some help from Viana’s two goals in the final period, Hillcroft was able to cling onto the lead to seal an 11-8 victory.

“We all work for each other and battle for each other.”  – Mason Wroe

Best Playing Pony was awarded to Viana’s Carioca, who he scored twice on in the first chukker. A first and last chukker staple for Viana, he describes Carioca as a “very powerful horse” who “always keeps going with the same strength.” Viana felt especially grateful for this award, as he felt it acknowledged the “effort of his grooms during the season.”

Fresh off of his MVP win in the Commander-In-Chief Cup earlier this month, Viana was also named the Most Valuable Player of this tournament after scoring an impressive nine of Hillcroft’s 11 goals. “I think the key is not overthinking it,” said Viana who scored six from the penalty line on the day. “I just go straight to the ball and I hit as if I was hitting it in the yard at my house. I don’t think about it.”

Best Playing Pony was awarded to Carioca. Played and owned by Nachi Viana. Pictured with Christian Piedrabuena, Ignacio Sorhuet and Martin Machado.
Best Playing Pony was awarded to Carioca. Played and owned by Nachi Viana. Pictured with Cristian Piedrabuena, Ignacio Sorhuet and Martin Machado.

Celebrating the win, Wroe credited James Miller and the Hillcroft organization for “putting solid, complete, and fun teams together. We all work for each other and battle for each other.”

Despite this tournament being the last of the Sarasota 12-goal season, there’s still a lot to look forward to in the club’s near future. With more and more people joining the club, Miller appreciatively noted, “We are lucky to have over 30 years of tradition established in Sarasota and we are growing faster than ever which makes for a fun and vibrant environment.”

*Mason Wroe is a 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 ©Julio Aguilar.

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