The National Arena Commander-in-Chief Cup was played over the course of two days on October 26 and 27, as a “split string” event. The tournament was awarded to the Central Texas Polo Association’s Texas Military Polo Club in Poteet, Texas. Played between two facilities on both a grass and dirt arena, day one was hosted on the grass by the Texas Military Polo Club and day two took place at the Two Wishes Polo Club in Lockhart, Texas. Featuring perfect weather both days and excellent horses, the tournament was a true national event with players traveling from Arizona, California, Florida, Michigan, Texas, and Virginia to represent the military branches in completive polo.

On the first day at Texas Military Polo Club, defending champions Army challenged Navy/Marine Corps. Navy/Marine Corps began with three goals on the scoreboard due to handicap. Both teams firing on goal to begin the first chukker, Navy/Marine Corps’ Alex Jenkins scored the first goal of the day, but was quickly matched by two from Army’s Mark Gillespie and another from Paul Knapp. Retaliating, Karl Hilberg ended the chukker with a second field goal for Navy/Marine Corps. Heading into the second chukker, Navy/Marine Corps held the lead at 5-3, but Army came out with gusto to score three. Leveling the scoreboard, Shannon McGraw added one more to the tally ending play 6-all.

Air Force on the ball with Navy/Marine Corps defending.

Air Force on the ball with Navy/Marine Corps defending.

Navy/Marine Corps faced off against the Air Force in the second game. Navy/Marine Corps started with two goals on handicap and Jenkins scored first while Hilberg converted a Penalty 2. Air Force responded with Chris Jones scoring the final goal of the chukker. Capitalizing on his momentum, Jenkins again quickly scored, but the remainder of the chukker was dominated by the Air Force with three goals split between Cody Goetz and Jones. The half ended with Navy/Marine Corps leading Air Force 5-4.

Sunday was another beautiful day, welcoming Navy/Marine Corps and Army to the arena. Army played a competitive first chukker with all players landing on the board to hold Navy scoreless. In the final chukker Knapp and Gillespie each launched a two-point shot between the posts, but Hilberg countered with a spectacular two-point nearside neckshot from the far left of the arena. Knapp converted a Penalty 4 as Army claimed victory 17-8.

Cody Goetz running with ball while Alex Jenkins attempts to hook.

Cody Goetz running with ball while Alex Jenkins attempts to hook.

Navy/Marine Corps played Air Force next and like Army, Air Force came out sizzling hot from the beginning. The chukker was dominated by the Air Force with Rob Phipps, Goetz and Jones splitting five goals between them and preventing Navy/Marine Corps from making a successful shot. In the final chukker, Navy/Marine Corps scored three times, but Air Force’s Goetz and Jones added four more to increase their lead and win 13-8.

The final match came down to Army and Air Force. Tight throughout the first chukker, the game shifted to Air Force by the end of the second who had doubled their opponents 4-2. Goetz scored first for the Air Force in the third, but Army’s Knapp came back with one of his own to close out the chukker. Headed into the final chukker, Air Force retained the lead 6-3. Scoring two consecutive goals, Air Force extended their lead, but Knapp answered back with two back-to-back goals. Army’s push in the final minutes was valiant, but proved not enough to overtake the lead and Air Force won with a final score of 8-5.

MVP Chris Jones

Most Valuable Player, Chris Jones.

Sgt Chris Jones, USMC, was named Most Valuable Player. Best Playing Pony honors were awarded to Monet, ridden by Major Cody Goetz and Sgt Paul Knapp and provided by Ariel RodriguezTheSportsmanship Award was presented to Captain Shannon McGraw, USMC (Ret). The Horsemanship Award was given to Sgt Paul Knapp, USA (HD).

BPP Monet, pictured with (L-R) Paul Knapp, Cody Goetz, Bekkah Murrell.

Best Playing Pony, Monet, pictured with (L-R) Paul Knapp, Cody Goetz, Bekkah Murrell.

Contact Karl Hilberg, karlhilberg@gmail.com, if you are interested in participating in the 2020 National Arena Commander-in-Chief Cup.

All photos courtesy of ©David Murrell.TEXAS MILITARY POLO CLUB, LLC TWO WISHES POLO CLUB 

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