Mar 17, 2022 8:48 PM

La Elina's Ignacio "Nachi" Viana reaches for the hook on Cessna's Guillermo "Gringo" Colombres in the playoffs of the USPA Gold Cup® at International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington, Florida. ©Global Polo Entertainment
La Elina's Ignacio "Nachi" Viana reaches for the hook on Cessna's Gringo Colombres in the playoffs of the USPA Gold Cup® at International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington, Florida. ©Global Polo Entertainment

Story courtesy of International Polo Club Palm Beach.

The final day of play-off action in the 2022 USPA Gold Cup® at International Polo Club Palm Beach (IPC) in Wellington, Florida began with Tamera (Alejandro Poma, Segundo Saravi, Magoo Laprida, Diego Cavanagh) overcoming rainy conditions to defeat La Fe (Robi Bilbao, Lucas Diaz Alberdi, Francisco Elizalde, Louis Devaleix) 13-10.

The last play-off resulted in La Elina (Leo Mandelbaum, Ignacio "Nachi" Viana, Guillermo "Sapo" Caset, Jared Zenni*) capturing the 14-9 victory over Cessna (Will Johnston, Raul "Gringo" Colombres, Edward "Camp" Campbell, sub. Alejandro Novillo Astrada), for their first win of the season at the International Polo Club Palm Beach (IPC).

A dominant first half for Tamera set the tone for the first match played under tough conditions, as accurate shooting propelled Tamera to a significant lead. Shooting 70% in the opening three chukkers, Tamera was led by five goals from Saravi, while La Fe countered with four goals from Bilbao. Penalty shooting struggles for La Fe ultimately proved crucial to the outcome, as they converted just four of their nine attempts, unable to capitalize on four penalties from the 40-yard line and closer. Producing a stretch of nine unanswered goals, Tamera excelled in open play with a combined team effort that featured five assists on nine field goals to claim a spot in the quarterfinals with the 13-10 win.

Conceding two goals on handicap, Tamera raced out of the gate with three unanswered goals to quickly turn the two-goal deficit into a one-goal lead, just halfway through the first chukker. Early foul trouble for La Fe resulted in two penalty goals for Saravi, but La Fe reorganized and finished the opening seven minutes with two goals of their own to regain the lead at 4-3.

The remainder of the first half belonged to Tamera, as they overwhelmed the La Fe defense to outshoot their opponents 8-1 during the stretch and taking advantage of nearly every opportunity, receiving two goals each from Poma, Cavanagh and Saravi. Unable to find the mark on two penalty attempts, La Fe entered halftime trailing 9-4.

La Fe’s goalless drought carried through the fourth chukker as another missed penalty allowed Tamera to extend their lead further. Concluding the chukker with a Penalty 1 awarded to Poma, Tamera held a commanding eight-goal lead as the rain poured down on the Isla Carroll East field. Facing a difficult task, La Fe finally broke through from the field as Elizalde scored consecutive goals, bringing his team back within six, but little time remained to complete the comeback. Despite three penalty conversions and a four-goal sixth chukker for La Fe, Tamera ensured they remained ahead and secured the 13-10 victory.

In search of their first victory, La Elina faced a 19-goal Cessna line-up that had Astrada making his debut in place of brother Miguel. Controlling possession, La Elina worked effectively to generate twenty-one shots at goal compared to just eight for Cessna in their strongest performance of the season. Caset led all players with eight goals, while all four La Elina players collected at least one assist. Struggling to find chemistry from the field, Cessna was led offensively by four penalty goals from Colombres, but the discrepancy in open play resulted in La Elina claiming their first win with the 14-9 triumph.

Making an immediate impact, 10-goaler Caset opened the game with three goals in the first three minutes, erasing Cessna’s three-goal lead on handicap and tying the game at 3-all. Stunned, Cessna regrouped and Colombres converted two penalty chances to give Cessna the narrow 5-4 lead at the conclusion of the first chukker. The game tightened in the second chukker as the difference remained at one until La Elina exploded for four straight goals to end the half, with two coming off the mallet of Caset, along with one each from Viana and Zenni. Leading 9-6 entering halftime, La Elina had their sights firmly set on the final spot in the quarterfinals.

Looking for momentum, Cessna opened the scoring in the second half on Colombres’ fourth penalty conversion, but his team had yet to score from the field as La Elina continued to protect their goal. Driving forward, Zenni highlighted La Elina’s strong attack in the fourth chukker, adding two goals to extend their lead to five. Cessna’s hopes of a comeback were dashed in the fifth chukker, as they remained scoreless from the field and faced a nearly insurmountable six-goal deficit with one chukker left. Caset’s eighth tally along with Zenni’s fourth goal concluded an exceptional showing for La Elina as they captured the 14-9 victory.

*Jared Zenni is aTeam USPA Member 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.