The final of the 2020 National President’s Cup at New Bridge Polo & Country Club in Aiken, South Carolina, came down to two undefeated teams, Bottega (Hope Arellano*, Adam Snow, Nachi Viana, Joe Post) and Hardscrabble (Mason Lampton, Jack Whitman, Polo Baez, Pelon Escapite). Substituting on Bottega in the semifinal and final, Post filled in for Frank Stitt who was injured during league play. A well-rounded Bottega team excelled on defense, limiting Hardscrabble’s opportunities, while producing a consistent attack to capture the 15-10 victory.
Bottega’s effective offensive transitions pressured Hardscrabble early on. A back-and-forth opening chukker ended 2-all as Bottega forced their opponents fight for each attempt at goal. Viana and Snow worked well together, each adding a goal to the tally and leaving Hardscrabble scoreless after the second. Bottega extended their two-goal lead in the third chukker with back-to-back penalty conversions from Viana, to which Hardscrabble’s Whitman responded with a goal of his own. Doubling the scoreboard 6-3 at halftime, Bottega continued to advance with a series of goals in the second half.
The pace increased to begin the fourth with a balanced attack from Bottega. Arellano and Snow’s second goals of the game contributed to a strong four-goal fourth chukker for Bottega. Escapite kept Hardscrabble within reach scoring two goals, but Bottega was determined to maintain the lead. In a repeat of the previous chukker, Bottega added four more goals in the fifth while Post continued to effectively man the back of the game. Entering the sixth 14-7, Bottega was met by three consecutive goals in retaliation from Hardscrabble, their efforts came too late however. Adding her fourth goal of the game, Arellano sealed the 15-10 victory for Bottega. “I have been fortunate enough to play with Adam and Mr. Stitt in many tournaments, but it was great to have the opportunity to play with Nachi and Joe because they are all amazing players,” Arellano said.
Nachi Viana was named Most Valuable Player. “I think any of us on the team could have won Most Valuable Player and I was the lucky one to receive it,” Viana said. “We got together the day before each game to talk about strategy and organize so I think that was key to us getting the results. Playing with Adam is great because he is always ahead of the play and makes all of us play smarter.”
Best Playing Pony: Cautiva, played by Nachi Viana, owned by Felipe Viana, pictured with Allison Mandriota and presented by Joanna Caldwell.
Viana’s mare Cautiva received Best Playing Pony honors. “Cautiva is a very good mare from my brother Felipe [Viana],” Viana said. “He brought her from Argentina a couple of years ago as a seven-year-old and played her twice in the GAUNTLET OF POLO™ for Cessna and Park Place in Wellington, Florida. She is extremely handy and is powerful as well. I was very lucky and thankful that Felipe lent her to me!”
Bottega finished with an undefeated 4-0 record, relying on strong team chemistry which was evident in each win throughout tournament play. “Frank [Stitt], Hope and I have played several seasons together and getting comfortable playing with Nachi took about a second!” Snow said with a laugh. “The team really went from strength to strength—good defense and quick to attack. The last two games were a little bittersweet because Frank was unable to play with us, but Joe did a good job playing at back.” “We couldn’t have asked for a better substitute!” Arellano echoed.
Joining the team at the tail-end of the tournament, Post immediately took to the established team dynamic and was able to help bring the win home for Bottega. “Everyone does their job on the field and it has been one of the best coaching experiences of my life playing with Nachi and Adam,” Post commented. “One of the greatest things about this team is that we are all great friends off the field so it makes it that much more fun playing together.”
*Hope Arellano 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 ©Katie Roth.