Four teams, three of which held perfect 3-0 records, came ready to battle during Wednesday’s Joe Barry Cup semifinal doubleheader at the International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington, Florida. While all fought fiercely for their shot to qualify, ultimately Modere won 10-6 over Coca-Cola and Tonkawa defeated La Indiana 17-9. Modere will meet Tonkawa this Sunday, January 28, at 3:00pm ET for a final matchup to decide the 2018 Joe Barry Cup champion.
‘SECOND HALF TEAM’ MODERE TURNS UP THE HEAT SECURING VICTORY OVER COCA-COLA 10-6
Poised and prepared to put the pressure on Coca-Cola, Modere entered the first semifinal undefeated. Coca-Cola qualified for the match after Steve Krueger* successfully put the ball between the goal posts to win the shootout against Travieso. In the first half, Coca-Cola held their own against Modere with strong defensive plays, blocking Modere’s attempts to score and forcing them to take difficult shots on goal. Modere fought back, but was unable to complete several plays, resulting in a low-scoring first half. “I think we had a good first half, but we couldn’t score the goals and we were in a little bit of a rush, a little too excited,” Modere captain Hilario Ulloa explained. Coca-Cola worked well as a team, capitalizing on both field and penalty shots, and maintained a narrow lead going into the half 4-3.
Characterized by noticeably choppy play and penalties, the second half gave way to an onslaught of goals by 10-goaler Ulloa. Ranked as third highest scorer of the tournament with 21 total goals Ulloa played with strategic skill. Capitalizing on Coca-Cola’s mistakes in the fourth chukker, he expertly scored three unanswered goals on his young mare Charlotte, recently brought from Argentina. “We started trying to play in our system,” Modere’s Jared Zenni* revealed, “trying to stay close to the man whenever they hit backs, be on top of them before they get going. Coke likes to play an open style polo and we had to try and catch them before they had their speed.”
Unable to shut down Modere’s momentum, Coca-Cola would only see two additional goals before the end of the game. Ulloa heroically scored eight of his team’s total ten goals. A final run to goal by Obregon ended the sixth chukker and sealed the win for Modere 10-6.
“It was really tough, they played really well the four of them, so we had to keep moving the whole time—but it’s good to win!” Agustin Obregon said with a smile.
TONKAWA’S TEAMWORK DASHES THE HOPES OF DEFENDING CHAMPIONS LA INDIANA WITH A 17-9 DEFEAT
Indomitable and playing against one another for the first time during the tournament, Tonkawa and La Indiana each stepped onto the field with hopes to continue their winning streak. Early in the game, both teams were goal for goal, but Tonkawa soon gained the lead and didn’t look back. Blazing fast plays, broken mallets and nonstop action occurred from start to finish, with Tonkawa pulling ahead at an unexpected pace. Scoring four incredible goals before the end of the second chukker, Julian de Lusarreta let his horses go full out, devouring the field with every stride to goal. At halftime the score stood 7-4 in favor of Tonkawa.
Moving into the second half, the game continued with rapid succession, Tonkawa taking full advantage of every La Indiana misstep. Every player on Tonkawa contributed to the team’s tally, however 10-goaler Sapo Caset demonstrated his superhuman abilities on the field with impeccable accuracy. “We played as a team,” Caset stated simply. “This is the way we like to play, as a team together, and Jeff [Hildebrand] played amazing.” Currently the highest scorer to remain in the tournament with 26 total goals, Caset delivered expected results. Swiftly navigating traffic and making a breakaway, Caset was in superb form, taking his horses way out in front and nailing three consecutive goals in the fourth, followed by Hildebrand’s second goal of the game. Shut out completely in the fourth chukker, La Indiana regrouped and fought back valiantly to add three final goals to the scoreboard in the fifth. Tonkawa was relentless however, matching La Indiana with three of their own in the final chukker to ride away with the win.
Almost doubling La Indiana’s score after an intense six chukkers of play, Tonkawa garnered the second Joe Barry Cup Final spot 17-9. “I am really happy to make it into the final because this is my first year playing with Tonkawa, and today we played really well,” Julian De Lusarreta said. “It should be a good game on Sunday.”
The USPA Polo Network will livestream the Joe Barry Cup Final this Sunday, January 28, at 3:00pm ET. For those wishing to attend the game at the International Polo Club Palm Beach in person, please visit ipc.coth.com
*Steve Krueger and Jared Zenni 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.
All photos ©David Lominska