By Steve Walsh
On Saturday, October 7, the inaugural “Copa de Amistad” (Friendship Cup) was played at the Virginia Polo Center in Charlottesville, Virginia, between the U.S. Military team composed of active duty, reservists, retired and former military players against members of the Chilean Army. However, at the last minute, as often happens with any military operations, there was a change of personnel required when three of the Chilean Army Team members were called away for contingency operations. This left the sole member, Captain Sam Rider, a Chilean Army Special Forces Reservist, in attendance. In true fashion and coming from a military culture of “improvise, adapt and overcome” the players quickly reorganized themselves and the match was played successfully.
Playing for the Chilean side was: Capt. Rider: Chilean Army, Marine veteran Capt. Jake Flournoy, USPA (Southeast Circuit Governor): former Air Force Sgt Rob Phipps: former Navy LCDR Mike Yermakov; and, Sgt Chris Jones USMCR. For the US side it was: LTjg Vicky Frederichs, USN; LCDR Andrea Logan USN; 2nd Lt Jonathan Burrows (USAF-CAP ret); Major Mark Gillespie, USA (ret); and former Army Sgt Paul Knapp.
Match play started out with the Chilean side getting on the scoreboard first with several quick goals from Flournoy and Jones. The grass field at Virginia Polo had been brought back into operation by the magic of coach and facility manager, Lou Lopez, and was spectacular, both divot free and very fast. Ending two goals ahead at the end of the first chukker the second chukker was essentially the same with the Chilean team continuing to outplay the U.S. side. With two more goals by Captain Rider, the score was 4-0 at the end of the first half. A missed spot hit by Knapp proved costly when Flournoy charged and took the ball downfield for a quick goal leaving Knapp to chase after him.
Knapp and Frederichs turned up the intensity in the second half for the U.S. side, but despite their best efforts and expert play, the U.S. fell to the Chilean side 6-0. A frustrated Major Gillespie summed it up best, “We could just not control the ball long enough to get it into position to score, hence the final result.” The Chilean Army has a long history of fielding great polo teams and while they only had one member in attendance, their natural horsemanship abilities combined with the tough play of Jones and Flournoy proved the key to victory. The key objective for this newly inaugurated, USPA event was achieved as this match launched the beginning of a long-lasting relationship with Chilean military polo players.
US Air Force veteran, former USPA CEO and current USPA Governor-at-Large, Peter Rizzo, presented the cup to Captain Sam Rider and his enthusiastically recruited Chilean Army team.