Challenging each other for the second time in the tournament, Highwood (Ron Matheson, Marcelo Rodriguez-Abbiati, Francisco Rodriguez Mera, Jared Sheldon*) faced Bensoleimani.com (Gustavo Usandizaga, Tomas Alberdi*, Remy Du Celliee Muller*, Ian Schnoebelen) in the Spreckels Cup Final for the opportunity to raise the historic Spreckels Cup. Substituting for an injured Soleimani, Schnoebelen along with the remaining members of BenSoleimani.com organized to claim the win 10-5.
“The strategy was to take control of the ball from the start. We [BenSoleimani.com] had played Highwood in our bracket at the start of the tournament and we did not perform well, so we knew going into the final that we had to keep the pressure on from the start and get possession of the ball.” – Tomas Alberdi
Ending the first chukker tied at one goal apiece, both teams would remain close throughout the first half. Play opened up in the second as Highwood scored three unanswered goals off the mallet of Sheldon and Rodriguez Mera. Launching a Penalty 4 conversion, Alberdi kept the game within two at the end of the chukker. Controlling the third chukker with three unanswered goals to counter, BenSoleimani.com overtook the narrow lead at halftime 5-4 by preventing Highwood from making a successful play on goal.
Bensoleimani.com’s Gustavo Usandizaga on the ball with Highwood’s Jared Sheldon defending.
Securing his fourth goal of the game, one per chukker, Alberdi opened the fourth, but Sheldon was in position to retaliate with a field goal of his own. Shutting down any further opportunities for Highwood, BenSoleimani.com dominated the second half as Usandizaga continuously guided the ball across his opponents’ goal. Grabbing a pair in the fifth and another couple in the sixth, Usandizaga deflected Highwood’s efforts allowing the Spreckels Cup to be decided for BenSoleimani.com 10–5.
Chris Maloney presented the trophy and the traditional red roses to the winners as well as the award to Most Valuable Player and high-scorer, Gustavo Usandizaga. “Our team worked well together on defense which led us to also have a good offense,” Usandizaga said.
Most Valuable Player, Gustavo Usandizaga, presented by Chris Maloney.
Open Esfinge (Sportivo x Grappa Cleopatra), a 12-year-old mare played by Usandizaga in the fifth and owned by Ben Soleimani, was selected as the Best Playing Pony.
Best Playing Pony, Open Esfinge, played by Gustavo Usandizaga. Pictured with Ben Soleimani and Kate Kerr.
*Tomas Alberdi, Remy Du Celliee Muller and Jared Sheldon are Team USPA alumni. The mission of Team USPA is to improve the sport of polo in the United States by developing the talent/skills of young American players through mentored training and playing opportunities, ultimately leading to a pool of higher rated American players.
All photos courtesy of ©Kerri Kerley.