The Aiken Middle School tournament kicked off Friday night, October 6, under the lights at FireStar Farm in Aiken, South Carolina. New Bridge and Isinya headed into the arena first, with Josh Escapite of Isinya opening the weekend with a huge two-pointer off of a penalty shot. Teammate Michael Bradford followed up with another goal for Isinya from the field. New Bridge started warming up at the end of the first chukker with Brianna Jordan using her arena skills to send one in off the boards. At the start of the second, Madison Jordan of New Bridge came out firing, sinking two quick goals with assistance from teammate Virginia Gwinn to tie the score 3-all. Brianna Jordan followed her sister with a line drive from the penalty line. Isinya was not to be outdone, and with great defense work from Grace Ellis, Escapite was able to knock in another two-pointer to take the lead 5-4. The second half was filled with lots of back and forth action as the crowd grew for FireStar’s FOTUS fundraiser. Players shined under the pressure with New Bridge coming on strong in the last chukker to capture the win 10-6.
The second day of play was a round-robin consisting of the Enviroscape, Equus Events and Crestview Farm teams. Aiden Meeker of Crestview started off the game with a quick goal to put his team on top. Teammate Raegan Leitner followed up with two more quick goals. Equus Events put on a strong push in the second half of the chukker with defense from Robyn Leitner and a goal from the field by Maddie Godard. Lazaro Gorosito of Crestview started out the second half of the game with a beautiful penalty shot. Equus Events’ Parker Daniels caught fire as the time wound down scoring enough goals to tie the teams 6-all at the final buzzer. Both teams were hitting clean in the shootout with Equus Events edging out Crestview on the last shot of the second round to take the win 7-6.
The second game of the day had Equus Events facing Enviroscape. Daniels continued his offensive attack firing in the first three goals of the match for Equus Events. Enviroscape did not back down, a long shot goal from Summer Kneece was followed quickly by one from teammate Jack Whitman to leave Enviroscape trailing by one halfway through the game 3-2. Equus Events came out and put a goal on the board after halftime, however, Kneece quickly knocked in two of her own, followed up by another goal from teammate Alea Crespo. Despite a heroic effort by Equus, Enviroscape held off to take the win 5-4.
The last game of the day featured Crestview Farm facing off against Enviroscape. A back and forth first chukker had Meeker and Whitman trading goals for their respective teams. Kneece got in on the action and scored three of her own to put Enviroscape up by two going into the second half. Raegan Leitner aided Crestview Farm by taking the ball straight to goal, however Whitman came out strong and scored four goals pushing Enviroscape to a win and a spot in the finals.
On October 8, the Sunday final between New Bridge and Enviroscape began with a huge Kneece two-pointer to give her team a two-goal lead in the first few minutes of the game. New Bridge’s Gwinn fired back with one of her own while Enviroscape held the lead going into the second chukker, eventually increasing it to three at halftime. The third chukker saw strong play from Enviroscape’s Crespo and New Bridge’s Madison Jordan as both teams scored three apiece. Enviroscape came out determined to win in the last chukker and edged out their New Bridge counterparts to take the win for the weekend 12-6. The day concluded with a competitive round robin between the Equues, Isinya and Crestview teams with all three middle school teams showing that the Aiken youth polo scene is an up-and-coming powerhouse.
Parker Daniels, Summer Kneece, Raegan Leitner and Jack Whitman were nominated as tournament All-Stars. Jack Whitman received the Sportsmanship Award. Best Playing Pony accolades were presented to Rapunzel played and owned by Raegan Leitner. A big thank you to the Freedman’s for the use of FireStar Farm and the team sponsors- Enviroscape, New Bridge, Creastview Farms, Equus Events and Isinya.
USPA Middle School League action continues next weekend at Lakeside Polo Club in Lakeside, California.