Feb 08, 2022 7:22 PM
Contested for the first time since 2012, the Regional Classic-Southeastern concluded Sunday, February 6 between Hillcroft (Vaughn Miller Jr., Whistle Uys, Mason Wroe*, James Miller) and Whiskey Pond (Brent Hamill, Valentino Echezarreta, Guille Aguero, Toto Collardin, sub. Ramon Collardin). The National 12-goal tournament showcased exceptional polo between four teams, each capturing a victory, yet Hillcroft and Whiskey Pond emerged with 2-1 records to challenge for the title. Avenging their only loss in the tournament to Hillcroft, Whiskey Pond produced a remarkable second half with eight consecutive goals to secure an 11-5 victory.
After missing the first three games of the tournament due to a torn tendon in his shoulder, team owner Hamill wasted little time in his return, opening the scoring for Whiskey Pond. “[It was] nice to get back in the saddle after being out a month,” shared Hamill, but the lead was short-lived when Miller Jr. provided a quick response for Hillcroft to leave the teams tied 1-all.
Foul trouble hindered Whiskey Pond in the second chukker, sending Hillcroft to the 60-yard line on four different occasions but only one was converted leaving the difference at 3-2 in favor of Hillcroft with one chukker remaining in the first half. Substituting in and out for Hamill, Ramon Collardin entered play in the third chukker for Whiskey Pond, contributing to a three-goal third chukker, led by two goals from Aguero to hold the narrow 5-4 advantage.
The momentum switch at the end of the first half carried into the second half as Aguero and Collardin continued to attack goal and keep the possession with Whiskey Pond. “In the final, which was the second game against Hillcroft, we decided to be a little bit tighter with the man and started to make an open game,” explained Aguero. With the fast, flowing style of play, Collardin pushed his team further ahead, scoring two goals, while a complete team effort on the defensive end held Hillcroft scoreless.
The final Whiskey Pond player to add his name to the scoresheet, Echezarreta helped complete a dominant stretch of eight consecutive goals that ended at the beginning of the sixth chukker, giving Whiskey Pond an insurmountable seven-goal lead with just minutes remaining. A final tally from Miller Jr. ended the drought for Hillcroft, but the extraordinary second half from Whiskey Pond propelled them to the 11-5 triumph.
Suffering their only loss of the tournament to Hillcroft in their opening game, Whiskey Pond navigated through the tournament with a different line-up each game to account for Hamill’s injury. “In all previous games, there was a different player filling in for me. Playing open polo is our strategy of choice... this was a big win,” explained Hamill.
Regardless of the line-up changes, Whiskey Pond learned from their first encounter to capture the Regional Classic-Southeastern. “We learned how they played and their positions on the field. We played well as a team and the horses arrived in great shape for the final,” Valentino Echezarreta mentioned. “It was a very close final, especially in the first half and luckily we were able to make a difference in the fourth chukker,” continued Collardin. “I’m very happy for the team.”
Adding three goals while being an anchor on the defensive end, Guille Aguero was instrumental in Whiskey Pond’s defensive effort that limited Hillcroft to just one goal throughout the second half. “With [Hillcroft] you have to be very focused on the man because they are a good team and are very well mounted,” said Aguero.
Alongside Aguero, Toto Collardin proved to be crucial in kickstarting the eight-goal unanswered run for Whiskey Pond and was awarded Most Valuable Player, while also receiving Best Playing Pony for his third chukker mare Regia. The honor meant that much more to Collardin with his home-grown connection to Regia. “[She] is a mare that was born at my farm, a home bred. She is very agile and always leaves everything on the field.”
*Mason Wroe is Team USPA 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.
All photos courtesy of ©Julio Aguilar.
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