Feb 24, 2020 9:28 PM
The 12-goal Pacific Coast Circuit Constitution Cup Final featured BenSoleimani.com (Ben Soleimani, Gustavo Usandizaga, Tomas Alberdi*, Remy Du Celliee Muller*) and Antelope (Grant Palmer, Santiago Trotz, Marcos Alberdi, Jimmy Wright*) on Sunday, February 23, at Eldorado Polo Club in Indio, California. Tying the game in the sixth chukker, BenSoleimani.com forced an overtime chukker and came out with the golden goal to win the trophy 12-11.
“I think what has been working well for our team is that each player is playing his natural position. Our strategy was to try to always play strong defense and not give up space to our opponent.” – Gustavo Usandizaga
Receiving a goal on handicap, Antelope gained an immediate advantage but Usandizaga countered with the opening field goal. Striking hard from the first chukker, both teams traded goals which mirrored the opposing team’s plays. Leveling the playing field, Tomas Alberdi capitalized on a Penalty 2 to tie the game 4-all after the first. Slaming a 60-yard free shot, Tomas Alberdi opened the second with a powerful goal, but his brother Marcos Alberdi quickly countered for Antelope. BenSoleimani.com applied early and constant pressure in the third chukker which produced two penalty goals by Tomas Alberdi. Consistently scoring in the first two chukkers, Marcos Alberdi added a goal, but Muller also scored to give BenSoleimani.com the lead at halftime 8-6.
In the fourth Palmer scored the single goal of the chukker, bringing Antelope within one 8-7. Marcos Alberdi tied the score early in the fifth but his brother scored another Penalty 2. Scoring three consecutive goals, Jimmy Wright led Antelope to take the lead for the first time headed into the sixth 11-9. Working as a team, Tomas Alberdi and Usandizaga added a goal each to their tally, sending the game into overtime 11-all.
In the seventh chukker, Tomas Alberdi won the throw-in and sent the ball flying to land within 50 yards. Backing up Muller and Usandizaga, Tomas Alberdi sealed the victory with the golden goal. “It felt great to score the winning shot because it was the play we had talked about in the tent before going into overtime,” Tomas Alberdi said. “I was supposed to get the ball from the throw-in and shoot to goal. Remy left it for me to make the last shot.” After a hard-fought game, BenSoleimani.com was proud to take the title 12-11.
“Our strategy going in was to be patient and play smart, wait for the right opportunities to run, and use our whole team to stretch the field,” Muller said. “I think our horsepower, communication, and preparedness are our strong suits.”
Gustavo Usandizaga, with his strong and accurate plays was awarded Most Valuable Player.
Sorpressa, a 6-year-old mare played and owned by Santiago Trotz in the sixth and overtime chukkers returned to the barn wearing the Best Playing Pony blanket. “She arrived to the United States from Argentina last December from Pepe Santamarina Ranch,” Trotz said. “She is very easy, has a lot of power and I feel very confident when I am on her.”
Competing for the 8-goal trophy in front of a large gathering of spectators, Sapa Polo (Igor Seyranov, Tom Schuerman/Erin Brittin, Jesse Bray*, Jimmy Wright*) challenged Antelope (Geoff Palmer, Grant Palmer, Santigo Trotz, Marcos Llambias, Marcos Alberdi).
Capitalizing on two penalty conversions each, both teams ended the first chukker in a tie. Striking first from the field, Sapa Polo’s Bray gained a brief advantage, but was quickly countered by two strong Antelope goals. Approaching halftime, the teams battled for control of the game, neither able to break past defenders in the third. Antelope maintained a narrow lead 4-3 at the half.
Returning to the game with renewed energy, Sapa Polo began to make their comeback happen in the fourth by outscoring their opponents. Taking advantage of a Penalty 4, Santi Trotz’s goal was met by a series of three consecutive goals which launched Antelope into the lead. Marcos Llambias retaliated to level the scoreboard 6-all headed into the fifth. Injured early in the fifth, Llambias was substituted by Marcos Alberdi and Antelope suffered another scoreless chukker. Demonstrating his accuracy from the penalty line, Wright added back-to-back penalty conversions while Bray nailed his third goal of the day to end the chukker 9-6. Both Grant Palmer and Bray each scoring in the sixth, the three-goal deficit remained unchanged and Sapa Polo was declared the winner with a final score 10-7.
“Playing with Jesse [Bray] was a blast,” Wright said. “We read each other well and allow each other to just play polo. Our mentality was to play as a team, open up the game and create mismatches.”
Showcasing very balanced and influential play, Jesse Bray was selected as the Most Valuable Player.
Monje, played by Marcos Llambias in the fourth chukker received Best Playing Pony honors.
Played in front of another large crowd, the 4-goal final featured Luna Polo (Jennifer Alexy, Hannah Taylor, Diego Larregli, Ernie Ezcurra) mounting up to face Exit Consulting (Lamar Rutherford, Greg Hanson, Rodrigo Salinas, Ashton Wolf).
Opening the first with two consecutive penalty conversions, Ezcurra was followed closely by a field goal from Diego Larregli to lead 3-0 after the first. Receiving a Penalty 1 automatic goal, Exit Consulting earned their first tally of the day, but Luna Polo’s Ezcurra hammered another goal between the posts. Eager to prevent the gap from widening, Ashton Wolf secured the first field goal of the game for Exit Consulting. Luna Polo led at halftime, doubling up their opponents 4-2.
Continuing to dominate the game, Ezcurra scored the only goal of the third on a run from near center and with a broken mallet. Luna Polo extended their lead by three goals moving into the fourth 5-2. Luna Polo continued to apply pressure in the final chukker as Jennifer Alexy scored her first goal on a wonderful run, followed by Larregli to leave Exit Consulting scoreless for the second chukker. Springing into action in their best chukker yet, Exit Consulting quickly chipped away at the five-goal deficit as the clock ran down. Salinas struck first from the field and gained another favorable Penalty 1 automatic goal. Executing great offense, Wolf managed to guide the ball through defenders, but the effort came too late as Luna Polo claimed the trophy 7-5.
Displaying consistent and steady play throughout the final to score four goals, Ezcurra was named Most Valuable Player. “Our strategy was to set the pace of the game by hitting the ball and utilizing all of our teammates,” Ezcurra said. “We wanted to keep the ball moving, stretch the field and separating their two pros. Jennifer Alexy made the difference for our team especially on defense.”
Fifi, played by Jennifer Alexy in the third chukker was chosen as the Best Playing Pony.
*Jesse Bray is a Graduating Member of Team USPA. Tomas Alberdi, Remy Du Celliee Muller and Jimmy Wright 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 ©Kerri Kerley.
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