Played for the third consecutive year, the National Arena Commander-in-Chief Cup brought together four teams representing three military branches, each vying for the coveted title at Great Meadow Polo Club in The Plains, Virginia. Emerging from the semifinals victorious, Marine Corps (Walker Hobby, First Lieutenant, USMC, Captain Jake Flournoy, USMC, Dean Daggett, Lieutenant Colonel [Retired], USMC) and Army Black (Joe England, Warrant Officer 2, U.S. Army active duty, Terrance Donahue, former Captain, U.S. Army, Joe Meyer, Former Major, U.S. Army Reserve) went head-to-head in the final on Sunday, September 27, with the Marines outlasting their competition 8-7.
“To win among such a fine group of military patriots is a humbling honor; however, getting the best of Army is very gratifying! The core values of the Marine Corps are honor, courage, and commitment, so as long as team members have this code in mind, they will play selflessly and serve the greater good in order to accomplish the mission.” – Jake Flournoy
A strong performance from team captain Jake Flournoy helped to secure the first spot in the final for the Marine Corps on Friday, September 25, with a 14-10 victory over Army Gold, leaving Army Black and Navy to battle it out for the second finalist position. A valiant comeback from Navy in the fourth chukker was thwarted by a game-winning goal from Terrance Donahue, capturing the 5-4 semifinal triumph for Army Black on Saturday, September 26, and setting up the highly anticipated final.
Army Black’s Joe England, Warrant Officer 2, U.S. Army, charges forward with the ball.
A lightning-quick start in Sunday’s final gave Army Black the early 3-0 advantage, with back-to-back goals from England. Retaliating before the end of the first chukker, Marine Corps reorganized defensively and broke through on the scoreboard with the first field goal from Flournoy. An impressive performance from Flournoy highlighted the second chukker, beginning with a two-point conversion to quickly erase Army Black’s lead and tie the score 3-all. On a burst of momentum Flournoy continued to make an impact, adding two more field goals to account for all five of Marine Corps’ goals in the first half. A penalty conversion for Meyer brought Army Black within one 5-4 at halftime, leaving the final two chukkers to decide the victor in the closely contested final.
Army Black’s Joe Meyer, Former Major, U.S. Army Reserve, prepares for a long shot down the boards.
Returning for the second half, England landed on the board first for Army Black, scoring his third goal to restore the tie 5-all. With his teammates working tirelessly around him, Flournoy provided the offensive spark for the Marine Corps, scoring once again to end the third chukker and setting Marine Corps’ sights on the title. Undeterred, Army Black fought their way into the lead at the beginning of the final chukker, relying on consecutive goals from Meyer to hold a narrow advantage 7-6. With the clock ticking down, the Marine Corps produced a strong finish as both Daggett and Hobby added to the scoreboard. The final goal from Daggett proved to be the difference as the Marine Corps held on for the nail-biting 8-7 victory and were crowned champions for the first time.
Marine Corps’ Walker Hobby, First Lieutenant, USMC, with possession of the ball, Army Black’s Joe Meyer, Former Major, U.S. Army Reserve, on defense.
“Winning any match feels good, but representing the Marine Corps and competing against a talented opponent makes this championship particularly special,” Hobby said. “Our team captain, Jake Flournoy, set the tone in the final by creating and converting opportunities while the rest of our team followed his lead to earn a hard-fought win.”
Best Playing Pony honors were presented to Magnolia, owned by German Noguera and played by Jake Flournoy in the first and third chukkers. “She is a very lovely and spry polo pony,” Flournoy said. “In the third chukker, Magnolia was especially handy with great stamina and she earned her title!”
Best Playing Pony Magnolia, played by Captain Jake Flournoy, USMC, owned by German Noguera and pictured with Tomas Bauer.
Falling on the same day as his seventeenth wedding anniversary, Jake Flournoy was proud to have his wife in the attendance which made the victory all that more meaningful. “In addition to the patriotic fans, I’d like to thank my wife, Anna Flournoy, for cheering on our team on our anniversary,” Flournoy said.
Played at Great Meadow Polo Club for the first time, the 2020 tournament was a success and especially memorable due to the efforts of all involved. “Mark Gillespie and Steve Walsh organized a fantastic polo event which was well attended by potential future military polo players,” Daggett said. “A well-deserved congratulations goes out to all of the tournament organizers and a special thank you to Mark [Gillespie] and his wife for hosting a wonderful post-game celebration for the players.”
Navy (Alex Jenkins, Petty Officer Second Class, U.S. Navy Reserve, Sang Yi, Lieutenant Commander, U.S. Navy Reserve, Lieutenant Commander Andrea Logan, U.S. Navy active duty), Army Black (Joe England, Warrant Officer 2, U.S. Army active duty, Terrence Donahue, Former Captain, U.S. Army, Joe Meyer, Former Major, U.S. Army Reserve), Marine Corps (Walker Hobby, First Lieutenant, USMC, Captain Jake Flournoy, USMC, Dean Daggett, Lieutenant Colonel Retired, USMC), Army Gold (John Kiyonaga, Former Major, U.S. Army Reserve, Mark Gillespie, Major (Retired), U.S. Army), presented by Dan Colhoun, Former Pilot Sergeant, USMC, Frank Gräfe, Brigadier General, German Air Force.
Also competing in the inaugural tournament, Dean Daggett enjoys the special camaraderie that exists between military players. “This is currently the only military tournament which requires all players to have served on active duty,” Daggett continued. “We hope to recruit more players from the military community and thereby keep this wonderful tradition alive for years to come.”
All photos ©Joanne Maisano.