Five young up-and-coming stars of American polo outfitted in U.S. Polo Assn. traveled to Black Bears Polo Club in Oxfordshire, England, to take on the Brits for the Junior Westchester Cup on Friday, July 27. Coached by Joel Baker and accompanied by Team USPA member and USA adult team alternate Jared Zenni*, the starting team of Hope Arellano, Bayne Bossom, Lucas Escobar and Tenzin Tognini defeated the English team of Will Harper, Milly Hine, Charlie Townsend and Luke Wiles.
Despite the traditionally rainy English weather, two determined teams entered the field for an electrifying first chukker of play, albeit scoreless. England snatched the upper hand in the second with a first goal from Luke Wiles. However, a goal from USA’s Escobar at the tail end of the chukker, a steal with a beautiful run downfield, equalized the score 1-1 at halftime.
A scoreless third chukker paved the way for a suspenseful final period of play. England’s Wiles finally broke the stalemate, but America’s fighting spirit prevailed—Bossom hammering a powerful 80-yard shot to goal to tie the score once again, 2-all. “We had great chemistry, it took a few practices to get in sync but once we were there we were unstoppable,” Bossom shared after the game. Shutting the back door, excellent defense from Tognini and Arellano kept England’s score to two.
Down to the wire and only seconds before the 30-second warning horn, USA received a pivotal Penalty 4 off a turning call. Escobar converted the shot for USA, sending the ball through the uprights to secure the Junior Westchester Cup title and the John Cowdray Trophy with a final score 3-2. When asked about his final goal to cement the win Escobar replied, “honestly, going to hit it I was angry because I missed my first three penalties and I knew I had to make it to win the game and to redeem those for sure.”
Coach Joel Baker was proud of the young team after the hard-fought win. “They were together for over two weeks, living together, eating together, practicing—and really became a unit of brothers and sisters over that two-week period. So today, when it really got tight, they never gave up on each other. The other team was a fantastic team, superbly mounted, but our team kept working together and I think that’s what got them through. I know that’s what got them through, they had all the confidence that they were going to win it—they were prepared.”
The team had tremendous support from Baker, USA junior team alternate Johnny Kirton, USPA leadership and their families from the sidelines. Exemplifying family polo at its best, Julio Arellano encouraged his daughter throughout the game. “My dad helped me out with the horses, reminding me which ones were which, what I had trouble with and what I loved about them,” said Hope Arellano. “During the game he was telling me to take my time, stay aggressive and stay heated, if I got a penalty to relax.” Likewise, Hope had some advice for her dad’s game tomorrow, “he just needs to go in there and play hard, play his best, and have fun!”
“I am so proud of this group of youngsters; they played their positions impeccably. Tenzin allowed no one into the scoring zone, Lucas distributed the ball at high speeds, Bayne drilled an 80-yard shot to tie, Hope extended the team with her prowess, and Johnny supported his teammates from beginning to end. Joel’s coaching proved invaluable once again.” – Carlucho Arellano, USPA Executive Director of Services
USA will seek to secure a second Westchester Cup win tomorrow at 10:00am ET when Nic Roldan, Julio Arellano, Jeff Hall and Peke Gonzalez compete to return the illustrious Westchester Cup to U.S. soil. Fans are encouraged to watch a live broadcast of the Westchester Cup provided by Pololine on uspolo.org.
*Jared Zenni is a member 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 ©United States Polo Association/Mark Beaumont.