With three teams still in the hunt for the fourth and final semifinal position, competition was hot on the field for the final round of bracket play in the Gulfstream Pacific Coast Open at Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club in Carpinteria, California. Fans across the country tuned in to see three fierce matchups courtesy of the USPA Polo Network livestream produced by the United States Polo Association. Klentner Ranch, Farmers & Merchants Bank and Lucchese began the day at 2-0, and a secure spot in the semifinals. Each of their opponents was forced into a must-win situation in order to advance.

Sol de Agosto's Costi Caset prepares for a nearside backshot.
Sol de Agosto’s Costi Caset prepares for a nearside backshot.

The first match between Klentner Ranch and Sol de Agosto started off slowly, with only five total points on the board by halftime. Sol de Agosto took the early lead in the match, scoring the first two goals of the game. A goal by Geronimo Obregon* for Klentner Ranch put them on the board, just behind their opponents, 2-1. A single goal by Obregon in the second balanced the score at 2-2. Play continued to progress, but neither team was able to convert. Jim Wright* eased one through the uprights for his first goal of the match and the team’s third to give Sol de Agosto a slight lead going into halftime. Obregon tied the score once again at three goals each late in the fourth chukker. Klentner Ranch’s Jesse Bray* perked up in the fifth chukker, cruising end to end, scoring two goals. A third by Obregon and a single goal by Wright brought the tally 6-4 in favor of Klentner Ranch. Klentner Ranch put some air in their mounts, scoring three goals from the field and a fourth from the penalty line. Costi Caset* converted a Penalty 2 for Sol de Agosto to bring them up to five goals, but Sol de Agosto was unable to overcome the hot scoring streak of Klentner Ranch and play ended with a final score 10-5.

Father and son battle for possession. Farmer & Merchants Bank's Nico Escobar in white, Santa Clara's Luis Escobar in red.
Father and son battle for possession. Farmer & Merchants Bank’s Nico Escobar in white, Santa Clara’s Luis Escobar in red.

Santa Clara and Farmers & Merchants Bank (FMB) were the second duo of the day to take the field. Lucas Escobar substituted for his grandfather, Francisco Escobar. An evenly matched first chukker set the tone for the remainder of the game. Lucas Criado drew first blood from the field for FMB. Young-gun Joaquin Panelo answered with a penalty conversion and a field goal to give Santa Clara a one-goal lead after the first seven-and-a-half minutes of play. Lucas Escobar played a tough game against older brother Nico Escobar, holding him from his usual scoring streaks, but he was able to slip away once adding to the FMB tally. Two costly fouls in front of the goal went in favor of Santa Clara, but a goal each by Felipe Vercellino and Criado once again evened the score 4-all. Santa Clara took the advantage in the third chukker, Luis Escobar scored twice from the field bringing their total to six. A Penalty 4 conversion was all that came from the FMB crew before halftime, leaving the score 6-5 in favor of Santa Clara. A close fourth chukker saw the score tied up once again 7-7. FMB came out hot in the fifth with Criado scoring twice from the field and Dan Walker and Vercellino each adding a goal to the score. A single penalty conversion from Santa Clara pushed them forwards, but FMB commanded a three goal lead 11-8. FMB capitalized on their forward momentum scoring twice more in the final chukker of play. Once again, a single penalty conversion gave Santa Clara a small boost, but they were unable to best the lead created by FMB, who rode away with the win 13-9.

Joaquin Panelo reaches for the hook on Lucas Criado of Farmers & Merchants Bank.
Joaquin Panelo reaches for the hook on Lucas Criado of Farmers & Merchants Bank.

Two matches down and the fourth semifinal spot still up for grabs, Restoration Hardware (RH) took a run against Lucchese, vying for the coveted final position. RH, the defending Gulfstream Pacific Coast Open Champions, needed a win in order to avoid a three-way penalty shootout. Santi von Wernich took the ball to goal on a quick pony for the first score of the game. RH showed tenacity on the offensive front, shooting on goal four more times throughout the chukker but they were unable to straighten their sightlines and convert. Lucchese took control of the field in the second. Jeff Hall came out on fire, scoring three consecutive goals from the field. A fourth score on a penalty conversion by Jared Zenni* was met by two penalty conversions from Jason Crowder for the RH team, pushing Lucchese to a one goal advantage. Play flipped back in favor of RH, Ben Soleimani, Matt Coppola* and Crowder each adding to the tally while holding Lucchese scoreless. Leading 6-4 going into halftime, RH once again capitalized on their offensive momentum in the second half, scoring three more times from the pitch. A single goal on a penalty conversion by Lucchese left RH in the lead 9-5. RH forged ahead, Coppola swiftly adding another mark from the field. Agustin Obregon and Zenni fought to bring Lucchese back into the game and each scored, bringing it within three, 10-7. Two goals by each team in the final chukker of play maintained the gap and Restoration Hardware’s lead 12-9.

Lucchese's Jared Zenni and Restoration Hardware's Santi von Wernich gallop to the ball at full speed.
Lucchese’s Jared Zenni and Restoration Hardware’s Santi von Wernich approach the ball at full speed.

Semifinals will take place on Thursday, August 24, and will be livestreamed on the USPA Polo Network. At 1:00pm PT on Field 3 Klentner Ranch will take on Restoration Hardware and at 4:00pm PT on Field 2, Farmers & Merchants Bank will battle against Lucchese.

All photos ©David Lominska

*Geronimo ObregonJim Wright, Jesse Bray, Costi Caset, Jared Zenni and Matt Coppola 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.

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