Champagne rained down over the Klentner Ranch team shortly after winning the USPA Intra-Circuit title at Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club in Carpinteria, California, in a tight match against Novis Insurance. They say revenge is sweet and after falling to the same team in the previous final, Klentner Ranch was hungry to overcome their opponent.

Klentner Ranch's Luke Klentner carries the ball down field.
Klentner Ranch’s Luke Klentner carries the ball down field.

The first chukker of the match was déjà vu as Santiago Trotz and his teammates Hilario Figueras, Peke Gonzalez and Ivan Weiss stormed the field leaving Klentner Ranch in the dust 3-0 in the first chukker of play. Santiago Wulff put Klentner Ranch on the board for the first time with a short penalty shot, but Novis Insurance kept their momentum going scoring the next two goals from the field creating a 5-1 spread midway through the second chukker. Wulff converted a second penalty shot for his team followed quickly by a goal from Trotz on a run downfield. Luke Klentner capitalized on his field position, scoring the final goal of the second chukker, 6-3 in favor of Novis Insurance.

Klentner Ranch's Justin Klentner.
Klentner Ranch’s Justin Klentner on a fast bay.

Klentner Ranch dominated the next two chukkers of play scoring a combined six goals while holding Novis Insurance to a single goal from the penalty line. Justin Klentner added two of Klentner Ranch’s tallies on goals from the field, pulling his team up by two goals after the fourth chukker, 9-7.

Gonzalez was a game changer for Novis Insurance as he rode out on a white faced mount named Poncho in the fifth chukker. Changing the pace of the game Gonzalez ran coast-to-coast scoring two goals from the field. A third goal from Trotz tied the score with 10 goals apiece as the fifth chukker came to a close.

Most Valuable Player Luke Klentner pictured with father Justin Klentner and Linda Walker.
Most Valuable Player Luke Klentner pictured with father Justin Klentner, presented by Linda Walker.

It was looking like overtime as the eight players waited for the ball to be put into play in the sixth and final chukker of regulation time. Klentner Ranch gained a small lead as Wulff scored from the penalty line, but it soon vanished as Gonzalez once again streaked down the field tapping the ball through the uprights to tie once again, 11-all. With the clock ticking down, Wulff nudged Klentner Ranch ahead from the penalty line. A perfect pass from Luke Klentner to Bray found itself wide and Novis Insurance reclaimed possession of the ball with less than a minute and a half remaining. The whistle blew and Novis Insurance teed the ball up for a final penalty four to tie the match and send it to overtime, but Jesse Bray* had eyes on the ball stopping it before it crossed the goal mouth and sent it over to teammate Wulff as time ran out.

Luke Klentner’s defensive prowess earned him Most Valuable Player honors. “We had team dinner last night and Santi [Wulff], Jesse [Bray], my dad and I were discussing our plan for the game and who would mark Trotz.” Bray interjected laughing, “Luke quickly told us Trotz was his for the game, not to worry. He did a really good job of marking Santi throughout the game and making clean plays on him. It helped us open the field up which is what we struggled with against this team last time.” Wulff has been a mainstay at Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club for years but the USPA Intra-Circuit title remained elusive until this year.

Poncho was named Best Playing Pony ridden by Peke Gonzalez, owned by Costi Caset*. Poncho was also named Best Playing Pony in the 2016 Gulfstream Pacific Coast Open under Caset.

All photos ©David Lominska

*Jesse Bray and Costi Caset are members of Team USPA. 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.