Coming back from two crushing 20-goal final defeats and losing the Ylvisaker Cup Semifinal in 2019, Patagones earned their opportunity for redemption in the 2020 Ylvisaker Cup Final on Sunday, February 2, at the International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington, Florida. Overcoming a few obstacles including the loss of Tomas Garcia del Rio to an unexpected injury early in the third game of bracket play, Patagones quickly adjusted with 2019 teammate Santiago Toccalino who led them to challenge La Indiana in the final. Assuming the early advantage and determined to create a favorable outcome this year, Patagones outscored their opponents to win the final 18-goal of the season 9-8.

“Our strategy in the final was to have discipline on the man and move the ball. After we [Patagones] play we usually watch our game tape and before our next game we watch our opponent’s game tape to study their strategy. Also we have team meetings twice a week.”  – Santiago Wulff

La Indiana's Facundo Obregon strikes at the ball with Patagones' Santi Wulff defending.

La Indiana’s Facundo Obregon strikes at the ball with Patagones’ Santi Wulff defending.

Taking command of the game from the first chukker, Patagones struck first with an impressive opening goal by Joaquin Avendaño on his favorite chestnut gelding Satélite. Doubling up La Indiana for the duration of the first half, Patagones exhibited discipline on the man as each teammate stuck strategically close to defenders. Leveling the playing field briefly in the second, Jeff Hall was countered by two explosive goals: a backshot from Santi Wulff and a lofted penalty shot in the air from distance by Santi Toccalino. Entering the third 4-2 in favor of Patagones, both teams displayed excellent defensive maneuvers as neither side was able to complete a successful shot on goal resulting in a scoreless chukker. Patagones entered halftime with their 4-2 advantage intact.

Riddled with penalties from both sides throughout the second half, the game presented opportunities for La Indiana to capitalize and slowly close the gap. Adding two field goals to their tally, Patagones saw every player contribute to the scoreboard in the fourth with Benjamin Avendaño’s first goal of the day. Capitalizing on penalty conversions in the fifth, Santi Toccalino and Facundo Obregon mirrored each other shot for shot as they claimed two penalty conversions each. Holding on to a three-goal lead 8-5, Patagones would have to watch out for La Indiana’s attempt at an upset in the sixth. Exclusively making penalty goals, Toccalino’s final Penalty 2 was met once again by Obregon who added back-to-back goals from the Penalty 3 line. Only a minute left in regulation and a single goal separating the two teams, Patagones rallied to maintain their lead, capturing the trophy with a final score of 9-8.

La Indiana's Jeff Hall makes a hook on Patagones' Santi Toccalino.

La Indiana’s Jeff Hall makes a hook on Patagones’ Santi Toccalino.

After nearly winning three different tournaments last season, Patagones was proud to earn the title of Ylvisaker Cup champions. “This win means a lot to us because it’s our first 18-goal win and the last tournament of the season,” Benjamin Avendaño said. “Last season we lost the Herbie Pennell Cup Final, the Joe Barry Memorial Final and the Ylvisaker Cup Semifinal all to Dutta Corp. Also to win the Ylvisaker Cup together as a family team is special.”

Best Playing Pony honors were awarded to Fino Conejo, a chestnut gelding played by Benjamin Avendaño in the first chukker.

Best Playing Pony Fino Conejo, played and owned by Benjamin Avendaño and presented by Gil Johnston. Pictured with Jano Vallejos.

Best Playing Pony Fino Conejo, played and owned by Benjamin Avendaño and presented by Gil Johnston. Pictured with Jano Vallejos.

Patagones’ Santiago Wulff was named Most Valuable Player. “Winning the Ylvisaker Cup is amazing,” Wulff commented. “I have played with the Avendaño boys for the last four years. We started playing 6-goal polo three years ago and then we went on to 8-goal, then 12-goal and now the 18-goal. It’s a lot of fun to play with family.”

Most Valuable Player Santi Wulff, presented by Gil Johnston.

Most Valuable Player Santi Wulff, presented by Gil Johnston.

As the Avendaño’s proud father looked on, he was filled with nostalgia and glad to see it come full circle for the Patagones organization. “I won the 20-goal Iglehart Cup 11 years ago in 2009 with Carlos and Julio Gracida and my brother Carlos Avendaño,” Gonzalo Avendaño said. “It really means a lot to me that after all these years my sons and my brother-in-law [Santiago Wulff] were able to win the Ylvisaker Cup. It feels like my job is complete!”

Competition continues with the GAUNTLET OF POLO™ beginning on Wednesday, February 5, at 3:00pm ET. Patagones along with 13 other 22-goal teams will strive for the richest purse in tournament history, $1 million and the opportunity to be named the GAUNTLET champion.

All photos ©David LominskaINTERNATIONAL POLO CLUB PALM BEACH 

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