Facing off in their second consecutive Keleen and Carlton Beal Cup Final against eachother, Tonkawa and BTA went head-to-head on Sunday, October 7, at the Houston Polo Club in Houston, Texas. Staging a strong comeback in the sixth chukker, BTA once again fell just short of the mark and surrendered the trophy to Tonkawa 14-12. The combination of team owner Jeff Hildebrand and Matt Coppola* along with several talented young players, Tonkawa has secured the title every year since 2016.
Striking goal for goal throughout the first two chukkers, both 14-goal teams kept the game tight and even early on. Scoring his third penalty conversion of the game in the second, Toly Ulloa was the only player to get on the board for BTA in the first half. Entering the third chukker down by one, BTA could not break through Tonkawa’s solid line of defenders and went scoreless. His teammates Mason Wroe* and Joaquin Panelo capturing a goal apiece, Matt Coppola finished off the Tonkawa offensive for a comfortable lead 7-3 at halftime.
As the competition intensified in the second half, passionate play from Tonkawa resulted in a slew of penalties that BTA used strategically to their advantage. Steve Krueger* capitalized on his opponents to add three penalty conversions to BTA’s tally, despite relinquishing goals however Tonkawa continued to steadily widen the gap in the fourth and fifth. An offensive freight train, Tonkawa’s Coppola and Panelo continued to produce successful shots on goal, ending the fifth up by a staggering eight goals 14-6. Still unable to make a single field goal and with one final chukker left, BTA desperately sought to make plays happen. Proving consistent and effective from the penalty line, Krueger catapulted his team forward with four consecutive goals in the sixth, three of which were penalty conversions followed up by goals from Ulloa and Jeff Hall. Although silenced by BTA’s abrupt advance, Tonkawa held on to their initial lead claiming the 2018 victory by a two-goal margin 14-12.
Most Valuable Player was awarded to Matt Coppola, responsible for six of Tonkawa’s 14 total goals. Coppola’s Lavinia Veleta received Professional Best Playing Pony and Sponsor Best Playing Pony was presented to Jeff Hildebrand’s Mechita.
*Matt Coppola is a member of Team USPA. Mason Wroe and Steve Krueger are Team USPA alumni. 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 ©Kaylee Wroe Photography