Mar 30, 2021 3:48 PM

2021 Regional President's Cup Champions- Gardenvale/Horseware- Juanse Olivera, Shane Finemore, Nachi Viana, Juan Bautista Crotto.
2021 Regional President's Cup ChampionsGardenvale/Horseware- Juanse Olivera, Shane Finemore, Nachi Viana, Juan Bautista Crotto.

After losing by one goal in their first matchup, Gardenvale/Horseware (Juanse Olivera, Shane Finemore, Ignacio ‘Nachi’ Viana, Juan Bautista Crotto) had the opportunity to redeem themselves against undefeated Skaneateles (Marty Cregg, Valentino Echezarreta, Constancio ‘Costi’ Caset*, Joao Pedro Souza Aranha) in the Regional President’s Cup Final on Monday, March 29, at Port Mayaca Polo Club in Okeechobee, Florida. Despite a changed team dynamic with Olivera being joined by three substitutes in place of Rob Neis, Aiden Meeker and Hugo Lloret, Gardenvale/Horseware handed Skaneateles their first loss by a narrow one-goal margin, converting a Penalty 2 in the final minutes to capture the 10-9 victory.

The back-and-forth opening chukker resulted in Skaneateles taking the early lead on a field goal from Caset, while Gardenvale/Horseware worked to generate chemistry with their new lineup. As the team started to come together in the second, Crotto came forward scoring consecutive goals to put Gardenvale/Horseware on the scoreboard for the first time. Echezarreta quickly answered back to keep the playing field level. Olivera scored his first goal of the game on Best Playing Pony 27 to open scoring in the third chukker which ultimately kickstarted a four-goal stretch that was completed by back-to-back penalty conversions from Viana. Echezarreta struck his second goal before the end of the first half, but Gardenvale/Horseware doubled up their opponents at halftime 6-3.

Skaneateles' Marty Cregg focused on the ball.
Skaneateles team owner Marty Cregg on the ball.

Reorganizing to come back stronger, Skaneateles completely erased the three-goal difference in a matter of minutes. Receiving two Penalty 2 opportunities, Echezarreta converted them both to tie the score 6-all in the fourth chukker. Adding a Penalty 2 of their own to regain the lead, Gardenvale/Horseware improved their discipline to keep the ball in open play. Despite Echezarreta’s fifth goal of the game for Skaneateles, Gardenvale/Horseware held onto the lead with field goals from Viana and Olivera in a fast-paced fifth chukker. Down by two goals, Skaneateles made a second comeback at the start of the sixth chukker, pressuring their opponents to try and equalize the scoreboard. Awarded a Penalty 1, Skaneateles inched closer and Caset scored the equalizer, leaving the teams tied 9-all with little time remaining. A foul against Skaneateles sent Viana once again to the penalty line with a chance to win the game for Gardenvale/Horseware. Under immense pressure, Viana converted the Penalty 2 to secure the nail-biting 10-9 victory.

Gardenvale/Horseware's Juanse Olivera executing a hook on Skaneateles' Costi Caset.
Gardenvale/Horseware's Juanse Olivera makes a hook on Skaneateles' Costi Caset.

Although all four Gardenvale/Horseware teammates are good friends, they had to quickly adapt to each others’ playing styles as a newly-formed team. “The final was the first time all four of us played together,” Olivera said. “It took us a bit to get used to each other and start clicking but as the game went on we started playing better and luckily pulled off the win. A big thanks to Shane Finemore for putting together the team.”

Gardenvale/Horseware's Shane Finemore helped put the team together for the final against Skaneateles.
Gardenvale/Horseware's Shane Finemore helped put the team together for the final against Skaneateles.

“We have all played together at various stages over the last decade so we know each other really well which made it easy to click,” Finemore added. “Also we had very clear positions and specific jobs with Juanse Olivera playing up front, Nachi Viana in the middle and Juan Bautista Crotto at the back.”

Responsible for five goals and the game-winning shot, Nachi Viana was named Most Valuable Player. “We had a very balanced team and everyone was on their positions,” Viana said. “I think that was what made it easier for a team that had never played together before.”

Best Playing Pony 27, played by Juanse Olivera. Pictured with Steve Orthwein and Juan Olivera.
Best Playing Pony 27, played by Juanse Olivera. Presented by USPA Florida Circuit Governor Stephen Orthwein Jr. and pictured with Juan Olivera.

Best Playing Pony honors were awarded to 27, a 14-year-old bay mare played by Juanse Olivera in the third chukker. “27 is my best mare and I got her from Tatin Zubiaurre,” Olivera said. “I can always rely on her when the game is tough – I play her two chukkers whenever I need to. She has a great mouth, a lot of speed and she helps me play better.” Olivera came up with the number by combining the month and the year he was born, July 2002. “She is special and I felt like 27 fit her well.”

As Regional President’s Cup finalists, both Gardenvale/Horseware and Skaneateles will receive priority entry into the 2021 National President’s Cup this upcoming fall at New Bridge Polo & Country Club in Aiken, South Carolina.

*Costi Caset is a Graduating Team USPA Member. 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 ©Laura Linfoot Townsend.