Although losing by a single goal in their first matchup, Beverly Equestrian was presented with a rematch against Woodrow (Christopher Finlay, Agustin Arellano, Nico Eurnekian, Pedro Guttierez) in the Eastern Circuit Intra-Circuit Cup Final on Monday, September 14, after winning the tiebreaking shootout. Due to the semifinals and final having to be rescheduled on account of rain, scheduling conflicts on both teams led to John Gobin filling in for Mariano Gracida and Pedro Guttierez substituting for Costi Caset*. Establishing the early lead in the first chukker, Beverly Equestrian (Bill Ballhaus, Tolito Fernandez Ocampo Jr., Hilario Figueras, John Gobin) maintained a comfortable distance throughout the game to seize the trophy 13-11 at their own Beverly Polo Club in The Plains, Virginia.
“Heading into the final we felt like we had a good chance to win. We knew we had a balanced team with John [Gobin] in the back and Tolito [Fernandez Ocampo] and Hilario [Figueras] covering the middle of the field. We also played our best horses in this tournament and specifically in the final. Most importantly, given our team chemistry we remained focused on our game plan and confident throughout the match.” – Bill Ballhaus
Beverly Equestrian’s Hilario Figueras on the ball with Woodrow’s Pedro Guttierez reaching for the hook. ©Joanne Maisano
Striking fast to hammer three consecutive goals, Fernandez Ocampo caught Woodrow flat footed and unable to score in the first chukker. Capitalizing on a favorable Penalty 2 conversion, Guttierez opened the second with Woodrow’s first goal of the game, but was met by an explosive offense. Picking up three additional goals between Figueras and Fernandez Ocampo Jr., Beverly Equestrian headed into the third chukker with a sizeable 6-1 lead. Mirroring the previous chukker, Woodrow worked to dismantle their opponents increasing lead and successfully retaliated with three goals of their own. Consistently scoring, Fernandez Ocampo’s single Penalty 3 conversion ended halftime in favor of Beverly Equestrian 7-4.
Returning to the field, Woodrow would spend the remainder of the second half attempting to slow down Beverly Equestrian’s momentum. Adding two goals to Woodrow’s one in the fourth, Beverly Equestrian widened the gap with John Gobin adding his first goal of the game. Taking advantage of the right opportunities, Guttierez gained possession of the ball and added two field goals to the tally. Not letting their opponents take an inch, Fernandez Ocampo Jr. answered back with deadly Penalty 4 precision to end the fifth 12-7. In a tough spot and without the luxury of time, Woodrow made their move without hesitation for their strongest chukker of the game. Arellano landed on the scoreboard first, picking up two strong goals to chip away at the disparity. Although outscored by Woodrow 4-1 in the sixth, Beverly Equestrian’s extended lead ultimately won the trophy with a final score 13-11.
Woodrow’s Nico Eurnekian. ©Joanne Maisano
Although experiencing a lot of changes in the team during August, Beverly Equestrian ended up with members who were very familiar with each other. “Since Mariano [Gracida] wasn’t able to finish the tournament we played with the experienced John Gobin who was a big help to our team,” Fernandez Ocampo Jr. said. “I played with John [Gobin] in 2017 in Virginia and I have been playing with Hilario [Figueras] and Bill [Ballhaus] for the past four years. When we needed a 4-goaler I knew John would fit perfectly,” Fernandez Ocampo Jr. continued.
“Having an experienced player like John [Gobin] on the field helped us to stay calm and play much more calmly with the ball,” Figueras said. “We all played very well together,” Gobin added. “I stayed back and hit the ball up to the guys who are goal scoring machines!”
Beverly’s Tolito Fernandez Ocampo Jr. goes in for the bump on Woodrow’s Pedro Guttierez, while Woodrow’s Agustin Arellano and Beverly’s John Gobin keep an eye on the play. ©Joanne Maisano
Responsible for eight of the total 13 goals, Tolito Fernandez Ocampo Jr. was named Most Valuable Player. “Everyone was playing their natural positions and that gave us a lot of confidence,” Fernandez Ocampo said. “I was doing very well converting penalties in the final and I had the chance to score receiving passes from John [Gobin] and Hilario [Figueras].” Posing with his week-old son Cruz, born on September 7 (a day before Fernandez Ocampo Jr.’s own birthday on September 8), the proud father and MVP described his son as “the best birthday present of my life!”
Most Valuable Player Tolito Fernandez Ocampo Jr. poses with his week-old son Cruz. ©Joanne Maisano
Best Playing Pony honors were presented to 8-year-old Yatay Casita Robada (Ellerstina Pícaro x Timba), owned and played by Hilario Figueras as a spare in the fifth and sixth chukkers. Casita Robada was also named Best Playing Pony in the 6-goal Eastern Circuit Governor’s Cup in July 2020. “She was bred by Cria Yatay, our farm in Argentina,” Figueras said. “We made her from scratch so we are really proud of her because she’s a very good polo horse.”
Best Playing Pony Yatay Casita Robada, owned and played by Hilario Figueras. Pictured with Alejandro Merino and Alejandra Nievas. ©Kaila Dowd
Defeating Woodrow who has consistently performed well this season, Ballhaus was happy with their competitive game and that Beverly Equestrian was able to take home the title. “We were able to withstand a lot of pressure from Woodrow and fortunately came out on top in the most competitive tournament we’ve seen in Virginia this season,” Ballhaus said. “I want to give tremendous credit to Chris [Finlay] for building a great organization that has been really successful in the Virginia United Polo League this season.”
*Costi Caset is a graduating Team USPA Member. 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.