Aptly played for over the Fourth of July holiday weekend, the National Outdoor Commander-in-Chief Cup came down to Polo Development LLC (Nate Berube, Olivia Stringer Berube, Turner Wheaton, Madison Jordan/Brianna Jordan) and Hawkwood (Leandro Berrios, Barclay Knapp, Juan Martinez-Baez, Louis Massimo Micolucci di Castel Frentano) in the final. Playing in this tournament was especially meaningful for Barclay Knapp whose father was an Air Force officer and pilot during World War II. Assuming the lead from the first chukker, Polo Development LLC maintained their half-goal handicap advantage with strong offensive plays to claim the trophy 9.5-8 on Sunday, July 5, at Brandywine Polo Club in Toughkenamon, Pennsylvania.
“What worked well was sticking to our plan with Nate [Berube] and I switching off at the back and playing closer to one another. It allowed one of us to go through with the ball and create passing lanes to Madison [Jordan] and Liv [Berube] at the first and second positions while leaving the other behind to play defense in the instance of a turnover.” – Turner Wheaton
Hawkwood’s Juan Martinez-Baez and Polo Development LLC’s Nate Berube battle for possession.
Immediately sending two back-to-back goals between the posts to open the first, Nate Berube set Polo Development LLC up for a strong start which the team would carry throughout the four-chukker final. “What worked well for our team [Polo Development LLC] is that we are experienced playing together,” Liv Berube said. “We won most of the lineups and took our men, but also turned loose on offense and did a great job finishing on goal.” Each side adding a single goal to their tally, Leandro Berrios’ precise shooting at the end of the second chukker resulted in two penalty conversions bringing his team within a half goal at halftime 3.5-3.
Polo Development LLC team captain Nate Berube.
Coming out to deliver an explosive third chukker, Polo Development LLC shifted the game dramatically in their favor in the second half, overtaking the field and extending their lead with offensive prowess. Beginning with the husband and wife securing a goal each, Polo Development LLC’s Turner Wheaton hammered a third consecutive goal to double up their opponents on the scoreboard. Reliable when penalties are on the line, Berrios capitalized with a pair of goals in response. Picking up still a couple of their own, Polo Development LLC created their largest lead 8.5-5 headed into the last chukker. Motivated by the desire to close the gap, Hawkwood sprang into action with the opening goal, but was countered by Liv Berube. Striking his first field goal of the day, Berrios was followed up by teammate Juan Martinez-Baez, however the push came too late and Hawkwood conceded the game 9.5-8 in favor of Polo Development LLC.
Hawkwood’s Leandro Berrios on a breakaway riding Best Playing Pony Nuvi.
Playing with Brianna Jordan and twin sister Madison in the final, Polo Development LLC players had a lot of history in the sport together. “Brianna and Madison [Jordan] started in our polo program when they were 12 years old and they have been with us every summer in Maryland and travel to play at Berube Polo School in Aiken, South Carolina, during the winter,” Liv Berube said. “They groom for us and have learned all the aspects of equine care so they play our horses and have now started playing tournaments with us. They are learning the sport the way Nate [Berube] and I did.”
Most Valuable Player Madison Jordan in action.
16-year-old Madison Jordan was named Most Valuable Player. “My favorite horse in the final was Wanda who I played in the fourth chukker,” Jordan shared.
Best Playing Pony honors were presented to Nuvi, a 12-year-old Argentine mare owned by Rebecca Knapp and played in half of the second and fourth chukkers by Leandro Berrios. “She is very fast and handy at the same time, but her most notable quality is her heart and spirit,” Berrios shared. “She can play the same from the first minute to the last.” “She is a star of Hawkwood!” Knapp added. “She has won Best Playing Pony twice at Brandywine Polo Club.”
In attendance at the final was Lieutenant Colonel Henry A. Detering U.S. Marine Corps Retired who presented the trophies.
In addition to the trophy presented by Lieutenant Colonel Henry A. Detering U.S. Marine Corps Retired, Polo Development LLC also received $1,000.00 in prize money from participating in the COVID-19 USPA Polo Tournament Stimulus Package. “I think the prize money will go right back into the horses!” Wheaton said. “I’ve had my eye on a few young ones that are off-the-track that I would love to get ahold of before heading into the fall season in Aiken.”
All photos courtesy of ©Elizabeth Hedley.