Story Courtesy of Karl Hilberg.
With rain during the week at the Texas Military Polo Club in Poteet, Texas, there was concern among the players that the tournament would be moved into the arena, but with only light rain and a lot of luck the fields were dry and ready for the weekend’s sixth annual Teddy Roosevelt.
Four teams participated, each representing a separate military service:
Army: Danielle Gibson, Horacio Herran, Eduardo Amaya, Nicole Speed
Marine Corps: Zoe Lehmer, Tres de la Paz, Agustin Arrayago, John Greening
Navy: Jose Velez, Chris Ballard, Mike Lancaster, Jack Crea
Air Force: Lara Semmelmann, Jessica Mignone, Gal Shweiki, Roni Panzarini
Umpires – Robin Sanchez (USPA Professional Umpire), Cody Goetz, Karl Hilberg (Referee)
Air Force’s Roni Panzarini keeps his eye on the ball while Marine Corps’ Tres de la Paz closes in for the hook.
Air Force took on Marine Corps in the first match of the day. Marine Corps came out hot in the first chukker; luckily for Air Force, they missed the mark completely failing to capitalize on six goal shot opportunities. Marine Corps continued to attack goal however, with another two falling wide of the goal mouth; finally after 3:30 minutes of play Greening converted a Penalty 2 to put Marine Corps on the board. Greening’s initial goal for the Marine Corps opened the flood gates as he quickly followed with a second from the field along with another Penalty 2 conversion. Teammate Arrayago continued Marine Corps’ forward momentum scoring two from the field to take the lead 5.5-0 over Air Force at halftime. A little over a minute into the third, Marine Corps’ De La Paz quickly scored, followed by Arrayago, steadfast from the penalty line, converting a Penalty 4. Air Force was finally able to get on the board with a goal from Mignone. Holding a decisive lead in the fourth, Marine Corps shifted to defense, yet Panzarini was able to break past to score halfway through the chukker.
Army’s Eduardo Amaya focuses on the play ahead as he gallops full speed down the field.
Up next, Army faced off against Navy. Navy was the first to score with Ballard sinking a goal at the four-minute mark. Army countered with a goal from Amaya to end the first chukker with a slight advantage, due to handicap, 1.5-1. Navy dominated the second chukker offensively as Lancaster scored three goals, two from the field punctuated by a Penalty 2 conversion, all the while holding Army scoreless. After the half, Amaya scored the only goal of the second chukker to narrow the gap. Army trailed by one-and-a-half goals entering the final chukker, but a series of penalties, a Penalty 1 after a minute’s play in favor of Army, followed by a Penalty 2 less than a minute later, sank Navy and led to a win by .5 for Army.
Air Force’s Lara Semmelmann takes control of the play against the Navy.
The next day of tournament play took place on a gorgeous November day, clear and slightly chilly; but, perfect for polo. The consolation match between Navy and Air Force was played as the Southwestern Circuit Constitution Cup. Navy started with a half-goal advantage at the onset due to handicap. Air Force came out firing, claiming their first and only goal of the first chukker off the mallet of Shweiki. Shweiki continued to dominate for Air Force adding another goal in the first 10 seconds of second chukker, followed by Panzarine scoring three, a Penalty 2 conversion and two more from the field to close out the first half, Air Force leading 5-.5. Air Force’s Semmelmann started the ball rolling in the third with a quick goal followed up closely by a Penalty 3 conversion from Mignone. Navy fought back, Lancaster scoring from the field, but it was swiftly equalized by Air Force’s Shweiki. Crea was able to add a final goal for Navy in the fourth, but Air Force could not be contained with three combined goals from Shweiki and Panzarini to end the match with a decisive win 12-2.5.
Most Valuable Player Agustin Arrayago of Marine Corp leads the field on a breakaway riding Solita.
The final match of the day, the USPA-sanctioned Teddy Roosevelt championship match, pit Army against Marine Corps. Army began with a half-goal advantage, which only lasted 40 seconds before Arrayago scored the first goal for the Marine Corps. Marine Corps’ Greening followed with a Penalty 2 conversion and Arrayago bookended the chukker with his second goal in the first period. The second chukker was marked by penalties as teams battled for possession, each adding a conversion to their total tally. Marine Corp edged past Army, however, with a final field goal from Greening to cement the lead at the half. Marine Corps dominated each of the first two chukkers with three points each, a trend which continued again into the fourth; Arrayago scoring two and Lehmer scoring one. Marines Corps held Army scoreless in the final chukker to seize the win with a final score 12-2.5.
SGT Reckless (USMC) Best Playing Pony was awarded to Gus, played and owned by John Greening and presented by Holly Wood and Mrs. Panzarini.
The COL Gordon Johnston Sportsmanship Award was presented to 11-year-old Danielle Gibson. Gus, played and owned by John Greening returned to his barn with the SGT Reckless (USMC) Best Playing Pony honors and the LTC Tommy Hitchcock Most Valuable Player was awarded to Marine Corps’ Agustin Arrayago.
The COL Gordon Johnston Sportsmanship Award was awarded to Danielle Gibson and presented by Armed Forces Committee Chairman Karl Hilberg.
Many thanks to Ariel Rodriguez and the Two Wishes Polo Club team for having the beautiful fields ready to play. Also thanks to USPA Umpires, LLC, for the professional umpire and the USPA Armed Forces Committee for their support of the event.
All photos courtesy of ©Murrell Photography.