Eliminating BTA’s chances of securing a third consecutive title early on, Tonkawa dominated bracket play leading up to the H. Ben Taub Memorial Final on Wednesday, October 2, at Houston Polo Club in Houston, Texas. Looking to stage an upset and avenge their previous loss, Eureka/Team Tejas made a valiant effort in the final but were ultimately overcome by the green machine’s consistent team play 9-8.
“We have a very nice team which Tonkawa team manager Jimmy Seward and team owner Jeff Hildebrand put together. We complement each other very well and each person has a position that they play. We really just tried to keep things simple and play disciplined man-to-man polo, move the ball to open spaces and try to limit our mistakes, errors and fouls.” – Mason Wroe
Setting Tonkawa up for success, Nacho Badiola initiated a slew of goals in the first half, forcing Eureka/Team Tejas to spend the remainder of the game attempting to close the gap. “Nacho [Badiola] is phenomenal with the ball going to goal and it really showed early on,” teammate Mason Wroe* commented. “It’s fun for me to hit backshots and see him pick them up and run to goal.” Firing two consecutive shots to goal in the first chukker, Badiola carried his explosive energy and momentum into the second. Securing the first field goal for his team, Jeff Hall was quickly countered by a pair of goals from Badiola as the offensive battle intensified. Both sides adding a goal each to their tallies, Tonkawa held a two-goal lead moving into the third 5-3. Precision from the Penalty 2 line produced a goal each for Charles Fridge and Jeff Hildebrand, but Tonkawa won the chukker for the third time to increase their lead entering the half 7-4.
Jorge Cernadas of Eureka/Team Tejas and Tonkawa’s Mason Wroe battle for possession.
Landing all Eureka/Team Tejas’ players on the scoreboard, Rene Campos opened the fourth with a field goal, but the deficit remained unchanged as Tonkawa once again retaliated. Taking all the open goal penalty shots for his team, Fridge began to close the gap in the fifth after capitalizing on two Penalty 3 conversions. Winning the fifth, Eureka/Team Tejas brought the score within one with the addition of a strong field goal by Hall. In position to overtake the game in the sixth chukker, Eureka/Team Tejas missed valuable opportunities to convert penalties which ultimately costing them the game in the final 30 seconds. Neither team able to secure a goal in the final chukker, Tonkawa narrowly seized the title 9-8 with a perfect 5-0 record.
Tonkawa’s Mason Wroe on a breakaway.
A new addition to the Tonkawa team out of Dallas, Texas, Vaughn Miller Jr. was named Most Valuable Player. “I worked for our team captain Mason Wroe, trying to clear the way for him to control possession and from there I found opportunities to make plays on the ball,” Miller said. “We made passes to each other and played together as a team, pulling out a tough victory against an amazing opponent captained by Jeff Hall.”
Most Valuable Player: Vaughn Miller Jr., presented by Kitch and Marcy Taub with Kyle Bodden of Celebrity Cruises.
Complimenting Miller on his dedication, Wroe congratulated his teammate on the well-deserved recognition. “In the final he [Miller] worked really hard and brought a lot of attitude to the field, never giving up,” Wroe commended. “He was the engine that kept us going and he made a lot of pivotal plays and nice follow up goals.”
Best Playing Pony honors were awarded to Jeff Hall’s Sevillana, a 9-year-old mare played as a spare in the second half. “She is a quick and handy mare. She is new to me so this is her first time winning a Best Playing Pony blanket.”
Best Playing Pony: Sevillana, played and owned by Jeff Hall, presented by Kitch and Marcy Taub with Kyle Bodden of Celebrity Cruises, pictured with Dario Arabena and Santi Sherriff.
Reflecting on the win, Mason Wroe was satisfied with all the effort his team put into playing the tournament and the importance of claiming such a title. “It was a great win for us,” Wroe said. “He [H. Ben Taub] was a great man and he did a lot for polo not only in our area, but around the country, so it’s always fun and an honor to win such a prestigious tournament.”
*Mason Wroe is a Team USPA alumnus. 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.
All photos courtesy of ©Kaylee Wroe Photography.