Sep

24

Keleen and Carlton Beal Cup

Final

Ghurka

8

Whitehall Ranch

7

Sep

24

Northrup Knox Cup - f

Final

Skaneateles

15

Good Thunder

5

Sep

24

Keleen and Carlton Beal Cup

Final

BTA

6

Eureka

8

Sep

29

Keleen and Carlton Beal Cup - sf

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REIGNING CHAMPIONS ZONE 3 TAKE HOME THE CECIL SMITH CUP FOR SECOND CONSECUTIVE YEAR!

Sep 04, 2017 6:16 PM

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2017 National Youth Tournament Series Champions: Zone 3 (Lucas Escobar, Mackenzie Weisz, Justin Daniels, Nico Escobar)
2017 National Youth Tournament Series Champions: Zone 3 (Lucas Escobar, Mackenzie Weisz, Justin Daniels, Nico Escobar)

Five months of qualifying tournaments nationwide concluded on Sunday, September 3, in the National Youth Tournament Series (NYTS) Championship Final. Twenty-four extraordinary youth polo players from all over the country traveled to the spectacular Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club in Carpinteria, California, for one intensive weekend of tournament polo and the chance to have their name engraved on the Cecil Smith Cup. Established in 2013, NYTS is the first national outdoor tournament series for youth competitors—providing opportunities for young rated players who do not exceed 19 years of age to compete against their peers. After two close semifinal matches on Friday, September 1, defending champions Zone 3 (Florida Circuit) in blue, coached by Tom Goodspeed, and Zone 4 (Eastern and Northeastern Circuit) in green, coached by Nick Snow*, secured their positions in the featured 3:00pm match on the stadium Field 2. Friends and family from all over the world who were unable to attend in person tuned into the USPA Polo Network for a unique opportunity to be part of this momentous championship final.

“What a great weekend for youth polo at the beautiful Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club. The NYTS series is a key part of the USPA Polo Development, LLC's emphasis on young player development, the future of American polo.”  – Charles Smith, Chairman of USPA Polo Development, LLC

Zone 4's Brennan Wells taps the ball out of the air, Mackenzie Weisz of Zone 3 in pursuit.
Zone 4's Brennan Wells taps the ball out of the air, Mackenzie Weisz of Zone 3 in pursuit.

Zone 3 controlled the game from the very first bowl-in, swiftly making up the 1.5 goal deficit Zone 4 had amassed due to handicap. A field goal from Liam Lott on an exceptional carry with a bouncing ball from end to end sustained Zone 4’s narrow lead 2.5-2 at the end of the chukker.

An unstoppable Zone 3 shut out their opponents in the second, every member contributing a goal to the total tally by the end of the first half. Nico Escobar commenced the scoring streak with an undefended penalty conversion which fueled Zone 3’s fire, unleashing a series of excellently executed team plays. On two occasions, passes from teammates found Zone 3 players undefended and both Justin Daniels and Lucas Escobar calmly stick-and-balled to goal for the score. Zone 4 could not catch a break, a Penalty 4 flying high and wide as Lucas Escobar sunk yet another between the uprights to widen Zone 3’s lead to a commanding 6-2.5 at the half.

Lucas Escobar breaks away from the pack to goal.
Lucas Escobar breaks away from the pack to goal.

“You learn so much playing in polo like this, this is the fastest youth polo in the country. In the beginning of the tournament our team was really, really clumped up and towards the end of the game versus Zone 3 today both teams really stretched out and began to play really good, fast, professional level polo. It’s a fantastic opportunity and a fantastic experience. ”  – Will Green, Zone 4

Zone 4's Will Green on a breakaway.
Zone 4's Will Green on a breakaway.

A determined Zone 4 rode onto the field for chukker three, scoring within the first minute—a beautiful pass from Lott to Tenzin Tognini. They continued to mount their comeback capitalizing on two penalty conversions, Brennan Wells riding the graceful and steady bay mare Margaret Thatcher owned by Central Coast Polo Club, to bring them within a half goal 6-5.5. By the end of the third, Zone 3’s exemplary team play once again took center stage. Nico Escobar, atop chestnut mare Gacela, skillfully carried the ball on the nearside making a final offside neckshot towards goal that Daniels flew in to finish with a 90-degree cut shot.

Mackenzie Weisz finished out the chukker with a neckshot goal off a long midfield pass from Nico Escobar to move into the final period with a three-and-a-half goal lead 8-5.5. A considerable deficit to overcome, Zone 4 suffered a costly mistake a minute into the fourth when horse trouble caused an override of a knock-in that resulted in a bowl-in perpendicular to the end line. Zone 3 capitalized, Nico Escobar scoring immediately out of the lineup on bay gelding Torito; he would single-handedly score all goals in the last chukker of play including a Penalty 4.

Zone 3's Nico Escobar carries the ball on the nearside riding Gacela, Liam Lott of Zone 4 hustles to defend.
Zone 3's Nico Escobar carries the ball on the nearside riding Gacela, Liam Lott of Zone 4 hustles to defend.

Wells would manage one more goal for Zone 4 before the end of regulation time, but a closing goal from Nico Escobar cemented Zone 3’s repeat victory 11-6.5. “Our strategy was to have faith in ourselves, go to the man hard and win the game,” said Lucas Escobar when asked how they approached the championship final.

Zone 3 celebrates their win in the tent with Luis Escobar and coach Tom Goodspeed.
Zone 3 celebrates their win in the tent with Luis Escobar and coach Tom Goodspeed.

“The horses went well, we played well as a team. We listened to each other, we respected each other and passed each other the ball and after that it just paid off. ”  – Mackenzie Weisz, Zone 3

The Matthew Cohen Most Valuable Player was awarded to 2017 NYTS Champion Lucas Escobar. Zone 4’s Liam Lott received the Horsemanship Award and the Sportsmanship Award was presented to Zone 1’s Sloan Stefanakis. Best Playing Pony honors were awarded to Napa played by Zone 3’s Mackenzie Weisz, owned by Leigh Breechen. In the consolation match Zone 1 (Hawaiian Islands, Pacific Coast, Pacific Northwest, Rocky Mountain, Southwestern, Border circuits) coached by Jesse Bray* defeated Zone 2 (Central, Great Plains, Midstates, Southeastern circuits) coached by Tiger Kneece with an impressive 7-3.5 victory.

Final stats
Zone 3
Zone 4

West Coast Represents on Home Turf in Inaugural East vs. West Challenge

East vs. West Challenge Champions: West (Coach Jesse Bray, Grayson Price, Bayne Bossom, Athena Malin, Cory Williams, Coach Tiger Kneece)
East vs. West Challenge Champions: West (Coach Jesse Bray, Grayson Price, Bayne Bossom, Athena Malin, Cory Williams, Coach Tiger Kneece)

This year’s NYTS Championship included an inaugural second level of competition, the East vs. West Challenge, which preceded the NYTS Championship Final for the Cecil Smith Cup. Established to represent a wider range of All-Stars selected at qualifying events. The maximum handicap for East vs. West Challenge competitors is A.5 and two female players must play on each team. Players participated in a coached practice match, with two mounted coaches on the field on Friday, September 1, in preparation for the final showdown. An even first chukker resulted in a close 3-2 score, West leading after an impressive three field goals from Bayne Bossom. A penalty conversion from East’s Maddie Grant equalized the score 3-all in the second. This was quickly diffused as West hurdled into the lead once again with three more goals, one each from Grayson Price, Cory Williams and Bossom.

East's Maddie Grant and West's Grayson Price battle for possession.
East's Maddie Grant and West's Grayson Price battle for possession.

West continued their forward momentum following halftime with three unanswered goals, capitalizing on a series of East fouls, converting two to widen their lead 9-3. East changed their game plan for the final chukker, matching their opponents with two goals in the fourth; a Penalty 3 conversion from Landen Daniels and a field goal from Grant. Able to end on a strong note, it was too little too late however, as Bossom added two more to the West tally for a decisive final score 11-5. Most Valuable Player was awarded to Bayne Bossom, game high-scorer with seven goals on the day including five field goals. Best Playing Pony honors were presented to 9-year-old off-the-track Thoroughbred chestnut mare Blanca, played and owned by West’s Cory Williams. "She is from Megan Judge at Central Coast Polo Club," said Williams. "I got her as a green horse and really got to grow with her. She is now my favorite mare to play. Aside from that, she is such a sweet horse with personality to spare. I am super excited she was awarded Best Playing Pony, she's a really cool horse."

*Nick Snow and Jesse Bray are members of Team USPA. 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 ©Elizabeth Hedley/www.ehedleypolophotos.com

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