Jun 20, 2023 3:35 AM
Concluding a successful and highly competitive spring season at New Bridge Polo & Country Club (Aiken, South Carolina), Upatoi Green (Josh Escapite, Jake Flournoy, Tommy Huber Jr., Harrison Azzaro) faced reigning champions LBL (Alison Patricelli, Harry Caldwell, Charlie Caldwell, Ignacio “Nachi” Viana) in an electrifying Father’s Day finale of the Regional President’s Cup. Featuring multiple lead changes with no more than a two-goal difference throughout the match, the formidable teams battled through a high scoring six chukkers requiring overtime to ultimately settle the score. Featuring a phenomenal offensive performance from Viana accounting for all but one of LBL’s goals, the 5-goaler sent the golden goal through the posts to claim LBL’s second consecutive Regional President’s Cup title 12-11.
“I knew we were the better team. It was just going to be whether we were going to dig deep enough. In a close game like that it really in many ways comes down to who is willing to make the second effort, the third effort, the fourth effort, the fifth effort.” – LBL's Alison Patricelli
A dominant force in 8-goal competition at New Bridge Polo & Country Club, LBL’s winning culture blossomed in an undefeated 2021 fall season, which carried over to victories in 2022 including their first Regional President’s Cup championship. Featuring a new spring line-up, LBL’s consistency stems from team owner Patricelli’s ability to identify and recruit superior talent. “This is a new team for LBL this spring season at New Bridge,” said Patricelli, “From the get-go, the team dynamic has been super positive and fun. Nachi coaches with positivity. He believes in everybody on the team, he’s always trying to improve each person as a player and importantly, he sets the tone for professionalism. All season long we just had so much fun together as friends on and off the field.”
Facing Upatoi Green for the first time in the Regional President’s Cup but the third time in the season, Patricelli detailed, “We knew what they were going to be bringing to the field. We had a strategy in mind based on our previous games against them.” Viana added, “They are all good with the ball. They’ll hit and run, so we knew they were going to try and open it as much as they could. Our plan was control. Once we had control then we could move at our speed.” Sharing the preparation in the days leading up to the finals, Harry Caldwell stated, “We had some rainouts, and we weren’t able to have much practice, so it was pretty hard getting the horses ready. We went into it thinking that we played them twice already this season, let’s go ahead and try to do the same thing as the last two games.”
LBL kicked-off scoring on a run of three goals that included contributions from Viana and Charlie Caldwell. Responding with a three-goal spree of their own, field goals from Upatoi Green’s Escapite and Azzaro quickly tied the match 3-all. Following Viana’s third goal on the day, Upatoi Green was back on the attack as Huber added his name to the scoreboard. Entering the third trailing by one, Viana seized control of play scoring four in the chukker including two from the penalty line to send LBL into the lead 8-6 lead at the half.
Detailing his contributions to the team Harry Caldwell shared, “I felt like a bruiser, you know. My goal was always to go into it working for Nachi, to make his job as easy as possible, and it worked every time.” Reflecting on LBL’s first half success, Charlie Caldwell added, “It’s always easy playing with my brother but we did have to learn to play with Nachi, which was easy. My brother and I went to the 2- and 3-goalers on the other team [Harrison and Huber] and tried to neutralize them as best as possible. They’re good players, well mounted, higher handicaps than Harry and I, but I felt like we did a good job doing that.”
Describing the elite playmaking abilities of Viana, Patricelli noted, “Nachi is really wonderful because he does use everybody on the team. We’ll stretch the field sending me forward. We’ll do close possession passes through the middle. We have lots of options. Of course, Nachi can also hold the ball and use his amazing mallet skills and horsemanship to carry the ball down the field when we’re working for him and creating lanes for him to travel.”
Re-charged following the break, a firm Upatoi Green response comprised of two goals each from the tandem of Azzaro and Huber flipped the score 10-8. Mounting a response to Upatoi Green’s strong fourth chukker, Viana chipped away at LBL’s deficit. Despite a successful drive from Huber in the fifth, two from Viana managed to bring LBL back within one.
Reflecting on LBL’s comeback determination, Patricelli stated, “I knew we were the better team. It was just going to be whether we were going to dig deep enough. In a close game like that it really in many ways comes down to who is willing to make the second effort, the third effort, the fourth effort, the fifth effort. So, I feel like it’s important to just stay focused, never give up and not get distracted by anything else happening. Just stay focused on what you know you need to do in that play and believe that you will win the game."
Posting their first shutout chukker of the match, LBL held Upatoi Green off the scoreboard to give Viana the opportunity to work the field and score the crucial game-tying goal to send the contest into overtime 11-all.
“I can’t say enough positive things about Nachi Viana as a young, rising player who’s really deserves all the support that he can get to get to that next level of polo. He’s putting so much time, effort and money into his horses and developing himself as a player. That’s the kind of young player that you want to be around.” – Alison Patricelli on LBL's captain Ignacio "Nachi" Viana
Remaining confidant in his abilities to deliver under pressure, Viana described his thoughts entering overtime, “I didn’t really think about it to be honest – play with confidence, always with confidence. I wanted to go out and win it. You know that it’s a game, there’s going to be a winner and loser. I think it’s important once you’re in OT, just go out there and give your 100% and hopefully the luck will fall on your side.” Patricelli continued, “Obviously there are things like don’t foul - the simple things. Don’t give it away, don’t foul, win the throw-in, try to create as many offensive opportunities as possible and be quick on transitions. Those are the basics of any polo, but especially in sudden death. The mindset going in is important, I think. I said to the Caldwell’s, ‘we are the better team. We are the best team in Aiken. Now we need to prove it.’”
Leading LBL with six field goals and four penalty conversions, Viana once again served as LBL’s offensive conduit. Bearing down in the extra chukka, Viana broke the stalemate scoring the golden goal, his eleventh of the match, to deliver LBL an exhilarating 12-11 victory.
“You know that it’s a game, there’s going to be a winner and loser. I think it’s important once you’re in OT, just go out there and give your 100% and hopefully the luck will fall on your side.” – LBL's Ignacio "Nachi" Viana on his overtime mindset
Reflecting on the overtime thriller, Harry Caldwell stated, “We knew Nachi wanted the ball. So, I was thinking I’m going to do my job and drag as many as people with me as I can while Nachi does his thing. I knew I was going to go work for him and make it happen, it was a great feeling.”
Following 8-goal victories in the Tommy Hitchcock Memorial and Pete Bostwick Memorial, the Regional President’s Cup victory marked LBL’s second consecutive undefeated season at New Bridge Polo & Country Club. Reflecting on the rare feat, Patricelli shared, “I asked the Caldwell boys what their goals were for the season, and they had never won an 8-goal tournament before, so their goals were really simple—they just wanted to win! We certainly did a lot of winning for them.” An elated Harry Caldwell added, “This win, was probably the most important one over the whole season because it made us undefeated. 12-0 is a pretty big victory.” Preparing for the summer ahead, LBL managed to celebrate prior to going their separate ways, “We had a great time at the New Bridge clubhouse,” said Harry Caldwell, “it’s always fun and a great environment. Now, we’re going on to our next season and then we’ll be back in the fall!”
For his contributions on both sides of the ball, including scoring two goals for Upatoi Green in the first half, 18-year-old Josh Escapite was named Most Valuable Player. Quick to credit the competition, Patricelli expressed, “That was a great team, and they are our friends. We were all congratulating each other on goals. Even though it was very competitive, it was also a nice mindset on the field where I think each player truly appreciated the other team.”
Dolfina Galardonada (Open Chimento x Open Premiada) an 8-year-old chestnut mare, played and owned by Nachi Viana was awarded Best Playing Pony. “I brought her from Argentina this last season in Wellington. Her mother’s a mare that Valiente played in the U.S. Open Polo Championship this year.” Quickly earning some career highlights, Viana added, “It’s her second Best Playing Pony award, she won BPP in the National Inter-Circuit Championship in Sarasota. She’s pretty complete, she’s super handy and quick, I would say that’s her best quality. Everything is pretty easy for her and she played at least a couple of times today!”
Summarizing her unforgettable spring, Patricelli expressed, “Personally, I’ve come back from an injury, so I felt really good about how much I was able to help the team this year offensively and defensively…I feel very lucky and blessed to play with people that are so positive and really want to act professionally on the polo field.” Praising her team captain once more, Patricelli added, “I can’t say enough positive things about Nachi Viana as a young, rising player who’s really deserves all the support that he can get to get to that next level of polo. He’s putting so much time, effort and money into his horses and developing himself as a player. That’s the kind of young player that you want to be around.”
Regional President Cup tournaments held nationwide serve as qualifying tournaments for the National President’s Cup, with priority entry to first and second place Regional President’s Cup teams. Under current National and Regional President’s Cup tournament conditions, the Regional President’s Cup hosted by New Bridge Polo & Country Club qualifies for participation in the 2023 National President’s Cup to be held at New Bridge Polo & Country Club at the height of the competitive fall season.
In 2024, the National President’s Cup will be hosted by the National Polo Center – Wellington (NPC). Regional President’s Cup tournaments will continue to serve as qualifying events, with the goal to bring teams representing clubs around the country to NPC. Regional President’s Cup events will be awarded to one Member Club in every circuit with the exception of the Florida Circuit, host of the National President’s Cup, which will host four. Member Clubs are encouraged to apply to host a Regional President’s Cup, with applications to be reviewed on a first come first served basis. Applications may be entered through the Tournament Database, please contact USPA Tournament Manager Kalia Dowd at email@example.com with any questions.
All photos courtesy of ©Katie Roth.
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