Six well-organized teams descended on Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club in Carpinteria, California, each with their sights set on the Regional President’s Cup trophy. Challenging each other in the opening game of the tournament, BFBST Law and Rancho Polo (Bayne Bossom*, Piers Bossom, Jason Crowder, Torrey Ripinsky) ranked at the top of their respective brackets to qualify for the final on Sunday, September 20. Seeking redemption from their earlier 10-8 loss, BFBST Law (Juan Curbelo, Cory Williams, Alejandro Gonzalez, Leigh Brecheen) took a commanding lead in the first half with strong defense, overcoming their opponents 12-11.
“We worked really well as a team because we trusted each other to do our part.” – Cory Williams
Opening the game with a penalty conversion each, it would not be long before BFBST Law began to control the game putting Rancho Polo on the defensive. Scoring two goals, Williams established BFBST Law’s early lead, while Piers Bossom’s score for Rancho Polo ended the first chukker 3-2, BFBST Law on top. Striking first again, BFBST Law’s Curbelo was followed up by back-to-back goals from Gonzalez which tripled the scoreboard. “We [BFBST Law] are a strong, structured team and our objective was to focus on being organized defensively and work from there,” Gonzalez said. Preventing Rancho Polo from scoring in the second, BFBST Law’s confidence and strength grew heading towards halftime. On a burst of momentum, Curbelo continued to extend the gap with three consecutive blows, one from the field along with two penalty conversions. Quickly falling behind, Rancho Polo tried to make their move but failed attempts left them scoreless for the second time. BFBST Law ended halftime with a comfortable advantage 9-2, ready to hold off their opponents until the final horn.
Rancho Polo’s Piers Bossom prepares for a booming shot down field, BFBST Law’s Leigh Brecheen hustles to defend.
Strategizing how to chip away at the disparity, Rancho Polo returned to the field prepared to fight back. Adding a goal for the first time since the opening chukker, Crowder would prove to be pivotal in the second half. Trading goals in the fourth, Crowder single-handedly sunk three goals outscoring BFBST Law for the first time. Both teams solid on their penalty shots, Gonzalez and Bayne Bossom each added a Penalty 2 to their tallies in the fifth. Contributing his fifth goal, Crowder’s efforts were beginning to close the gap slowly, but the chukker ended 12-7 in favor of BFBST Law. Into the sixth with no time to spare, Rancho Polo quickly made headway with their powerful 6-goaler. Striking with accuracy, Crowder added four additional goals and this time BFBST Law went scoreless. Despite Rancho Polo’s hail mary push bringing them within one, BFBST Law’s early lead paid off to claim the trophy with a 12-11 win.
BFBST Law’s Alejandro Gonzalez pops the ball forward as Rancho Polo’s Jason Crowder on defense.
Responsible for half of his team’s 12 total goals, Juan Curbelo was named Most Valuable Player. “Getting the rematch against Rancho Polo in the final gave us a chance to tweak our strategy,” Curbelo said. “In the first game Gonzalez played more up front marking Jason Crowder, but in the final we decided to move him to the back and I played the number two position. Luckily our new plan worked well and my team played amazing. Rancho Polo is a very strong team and this was a very important win for us!”
Most Valuable Player Juan Curbelo of BFBST Law keeps possession of an airborne ball.
Lolita (sired by Valid Expectations), an 8-year-old mare played by Rancho Polo’s Jason Crowder in the third and sixth chukkers, received Best Playing Pony honors. “I bought her a year and a half ago from George Dill, but she has really started to excel this season,” Crowder said. “Her best qualities are her speed, how pretty she is and her soft mouth.”
Best Playing Pony: Lolita, played and owned by Jason Crowder, presented by Belmond El Encanto’s Eric Gonzalez, pictured with Omar Sanchez.
Although not able to play together as planned in 2019 after Williams suffered a non-polo related broken leg, Leigh Brecheen was especially happy to join forces with the young polo star for this tournament. “Our team dynamic was enhanced by great communication and a mutual commitment to respect,” Brecheen said. “We took advantage of our individual strengths which resulted in true teamwork. Juan [Curbelo] is a collaborative team captain, Alejandro [Gonzalez] is an incredible talent who never loses his positive attitude and Cory [Williams] is a wonderful teammate and deadly in the number one position. I am so thrilled that Cory and I decided to try again in 2020.”
*Bayne Bossom is a member of Team USPA. 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 ©David Lominska.