All four members of the 2019 winning Tonkawa team returned to the H. Ben Taub Memorial Final on Friday, October 9, but this year were split between two teams, Bill Fick Ford (KC Krueger, Vaughn Miller Jr., Mason Wroe*, Jimmy Seward) and Horsegate 2/Tonkawa (Jeff Hildebrand, Lance Stefanakis, Toto Collardin, Nacho Badiola). Behind an exceptional defensive effort, Bill Fick Ford limited Horsegate 2/Tonkawa to just one goal in the second half to claim the five-goal victory 9-4 at Houston Polo Club in Houston, Texas.
“We had a very fun and well-balanced team and worked hard for each other. Every time one of us got into a bind it seemed like a teammate was there as back up.” – KC Krueger
Bill Fick Ford’s KC Krueger races down field, Horsegate 2/Tonkawa’s Jeff Hildebrand on defense.
Coming into the final with 2-0 records, Bill Fick Ford and Horsegate 2/Tonkawa began with an evenly matched first chukker. Collardin opened the scoring with a field goal for Horsegate 2/Tonkawa, but a swift response on a Penalty 4 conversion from Wroe restored Bill Fick Ford’s one-goal advantage on handicap. “I don’t think you could ask for a more all-around complete team,” Wroe shared. “Everyone had to do their part which allowed us to move the ball quickly and efficiently. We all worked selflessly for one another.” The back and forth opening chukker continued with Miller Jr. and Badiola trading goals for their respective teams. Despite fast, end-to-end action, goals were hard to come by over the remainder of the half due to strong defense on both sides. Collardin scored the only goal in the second chukker, resulting in Horsegate 2/Tonkawa tying the score 3-all headed into the third. Presented with another favorable Penalty 4 opportunity, Wroe converted for a second time, concluding the first half with a narrow 4-3 lead in favor of Bill Fick Ford.
Bill Fick Ford’s Mason Wroe reaches for the ball.
For the first time in the game there was a two-goal difference on the scoreboard after Bill Fick Ford’s Seward scored to open the fourth. Undeterred and striking quickly, Badiola answered back for Horsegate 2/Tonkawa in what would be their final goal of the game. Drawing momentum from their defense, Bill Fick Ford held the possession advantage to inch further ahead in the fifth, securing one goal each from Miller Jr. and Wroe. Facing a three-goal deficit, Horsegate 2/Tonkawa’s inability to get past the organized Bill Fick Ford defense proved to make the difference in the final. Two additional field goals from Krueger and Seward in the sixth chukker secured the 9-4 victory for Bill Fick Ford.
Vaughn Miller Jr. was named Most Valuable Player. “It was a special team with all four of us being current or former intercollegiate/interscholastic players,” Miller Jr. commented. “Mason Wroe and Jimmy Seward were great leaders and coaches with outstanding communication skills.” Playing and winning with Miller Jr. in the 2019 H. Ben Taub Memorial Final, Wroe describes his teammate as “young and hungry.” “The guy [Vaughn Miller Jr.] is an athlete and works his tail off on the field,” Wroe said. “His relentless effort and hustle gave the rest of us so much time and space to perform.”
Most Valuable Player, Vaughn Miller Jr., pictured with Vaughn Miller Sr. and Marcy Taub.
Best Playing Pony honors were presented to 7-year-old mare Angostura (Obama x Sureña), played by Nacho Badiola in the fourth chukker. “Obama’s bloodline is Ellerstina Picaro x Easy Go and Sureña is a mare that I sold to Sapo Caset,” Badiola said. “One of Angostura’s best qualities is that she’s very handy,” he continued. “She can turn at any speed it doesn’t matter and she always gives me a lot of confidence when I play her.”
Best Playing Pony, Angostura, played by Nacho Badiola. Pictured with Facundo Fabbri, Marcy Taub and Marcelo Santomingo.
*Mason Wroe is a Team USPA alumni. 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 ©Kaylee Wroe photography.