By Alex Webbe
Despite falling behind by three goals in the opening chukker of play, High Ground Polo (Joe Meyer, J.J. Celis, Nic Roldan and Scott Swerdlin) rode out to a 6-3 halftime lead over Dutta Corp. (Timmy Dutta, Wes Finlayson, Jesse Bray and Carlitos Gracida) on their way to a 10-9 win in the final of the 2015 USPA Fall Plates tournament at the Grand Champions Polo Club Sunday afternoon.
Dutta Corp. received one goal by handicap from the 13-goal High Ground Polo entry, and despite a tying goal from Joe Meyer in the opening minute of play, rang up consecutive goals from Carlitos Gracida (penalty conversion), Jesse Bray and Wes Finlayson to lead 4-1 after the first chukker.
Nic Roldan began to chip away at the Dutta Corp. lead in second period action, converting a penalty shot for a goal and cutting the lead back to a single goal, 4-3 after carrying the ball from one end of the field to the other for the only other goal of the chukker.
J.J. Celis tied the game at 4-4 with his first goal of the day as the third period got underway. Roldan gave High Ground Polo their first lead of the game, 5-4, at the 5:11 mark of the third chukker. A second goal from Roldan was complimented by shutout defense as High Ground Polo rode off the field with a 6-4 advantage.
The High Ground Polo lead grew to three goals in the fourth as Roldan drained a 70-yard neck-shot, 7-4, but the Dutta Corp. offense stirred. Dutta Corp. was awarded a goal on a Penalty 1, 7-5 and topped it off with the final goal of the chukker. Jesse Bray scored on the ensuing throw-in, reducing the High Ground Polo lead to a single goal, 7-6.
Roldan’s sixth goal of the game had High Ground Polo on top, 8-6, midway through the fifth chukker. Gracida countered with a 40-ayrd penalty conversion, 8-7. Roldan executed the most beautiful non-scoring shot on goal on a nearside back shot from 90-yards out before following it up with a penalty goal in the final 49 seconds of the chukker for the two goal, 9-7 lead.
Bray continued to pressure the High Ground Polo, scoring his third goal of the game and bringing Dutta Corp. to within a goal of the lead, 9-8. There were runs by both teams up and down the field before Celis gave High Ground Polo a two goal lead at the three minute mark, but Dutta Crop. battled on. With time running out, Bray made a last symbolic run to the goal, scoring the final goal of the match with 19 seconds showing on the game clock, as High Ground Polo celebrated the 10-9 USPA Fall Plates victory.
Roldan scored five of his game high seven goals from the field, and earned MVP honors. Bray set the pace for the Dutta Corp. with four scores. Gracida scored twice from the penalty line; Meyer added a goal and the team received a goal on a Penalty 1.
Joy, an 8-year-old Dark By mare owned and played by Celis was honored as Best Playing Pony.
Barbarossa Leather scores wins over Travieso and Postage Stamp Farm
Behind four goals from team captain Leo Mandelbaum, Barbarossa Leather (Santos Bollini, Leo Mandelbaum, Juan Bollini and Julio Ezcurra) recorded wins over Travieso (Tony Calle, Guille Aguero, Carlucho Arellano and Tim Dutta) and Postage Stamp Farm (Annabelle Gundlach, Bob Puetz, Brandon Phillips and Martin Estrada) to capture the consolation round-robin competition of the USPA Fall Plates.
In the opening three chukkers of the morning’s round-robin, Tony Calle scored the first goal from the field for Travieso. Barbarossa Leather responded with goals from Santos Bollini and Leo Mandelbaum (penalty goal) to close out the period with a 2-1 edge.
Two more goals from Mandelbaum were countered by single goals from Calle and Carlucho Arellano. The second period ended with Barbarossa Leather holding on to a fragile one goal lead, 4-3.
Julio Ezcurra stretched the Barbarossa Leather lead back to two goals just 20 seconds into the final period. Calle cut the lead back to a single goal, once again, but that would be as close as they would get in the 5-4 loss.
Travieso 5, Postage Stamp Farm 2
Postage Stamp Farm received one goal by handicap from Travieso but was unable to launch a successful attack in the first chukker of the second three chukker mini-match of the round-robin. Guille Aguero finally broke the scoring drought with the first goal from the field for Travieso to level the score at 1-1.
Two second chukker goals from Carlucho Arellano and another goal from Aguero went unanswered as Travieso rode out to a 4-1 lead
Midway through the third and final chukker, Arellano’s third goal of the game left Postage Stamp Farm trailing by four goals, 5-1. The Postage Stamp Farm offense continued to struggle, with Martin Estrada scoring the final goal of the match in a 5-2 Travieso win.
Barbarossa Leather 4, Postage Stamp Farm 2
Barbarossa Leather wasted little time in taking control of the opening chukker of the final three periods against Postage Stamp Farm. Juan Bollini scored the first goal of the game in the opening minute of play. His son, Santos Bollini, made it 2-0 with his first goal of the game. Postage Stamp Farm was unable to get on the scoreboard and trailed by two goals going into the second period of play.
Leo Mandelbaum gave Barbarossa Leather a three goals lead, 3-0, in the second period. Postage Stamp Farm continued to have trouble orchestrating a successful attack, and remained scoreless.
Postage Stamp Farm finally got an attack on track in the final period. Well-placed passes from Brandon Phillips and consecutive goals from Annabelle Gundlach had Postage Stamp Farm knocking on the door as they cut the Barbarossa Leather team’s lead to a single goal, 3-2, with 2:36 left in the game. Postage Stamp Farm continued to press the attack, but the Barbarossa Leather defense was up to the task. A final goal from Julio Ezcurra came with just 56 seconds remaining in regulation play as Barbarossa Leather scored their second win of the day over Postage Stamp Farm.
The Grand Champions Polo Club is located at 13444 Southfields Road, on the corner of South Shore Boulevard and Lake Worth Road, Wellington, 33414. The matches are free of charge and the public is invited to attend. The Grand Champions Polo Hotline is 561-373-0073.
(Photo by Alex Pacheco)