After falling just shy of victory in the Northrup Knox Cup® Final and the National Copper Cup®, Hit Air approached the final leg of the 12-goal Trifecta at New Bridge Polo & Country Club (Aiken, South Carolina) with renewed confidence and determination. Leading their bracket, Hit Air faced Brookland Plantation (Thomas Ravenel, Del Walton, Whistle Uys, Cody Ellis*) in the Bronze Trophy® Final on Sunday, November 1, Cody Ellis substituting for an injured Tommy Biddle. Capturing the lead from the first chukker, Hit Air’s (Jack Whitman*, Justin Pimsner, Alan Martinez, Pelon Escapite) hard work finally paid off, culminating in a 12-8 win.
Brookland Plantation’s Del Walton prepares for a backshot with Hit Air’s Pelon Escapite close behind.
Their opponents earning a goal on handicap, Hit Air made a strong showing in the first with three team members contributing to the scoreboard to capture an early lead 3-2. Walton scored a field goal for Brookland Plantation to open the second, but Escapite was able to capitalize on back-to-back Penalty 2 conversions. Entering the third down by one goal, Brookland Plantation’s Ellis added a Penalty 4 conversion to briefly level the playing field 5-all. However, Whitman and Martinez both made their second goal of the game to restore Hit Air’s lead 7-5 at halftime. “We played very classic polo and I felt the key to our success was the hit and run style!” Whitman said.
Taking advantage of Hit Air fouls, Walton and Ellis both added a Penalty 2 conversion to Brookland Plantation’s tally to open the second half. Answering back with two of their own, Hit Air now had all four players represented on the scoreboard. Creating the largest lead in the fifth chukker with excellent defense, Hit Air picked up three consecutive goals, two off the mallet of Escapite to end the chukker 12-7. Going scoreless in the previous chukker, Brookland Plantation capitalized on yet another Penalty 2 but could not close the gap in the sixth. Although Hit Air was prevented from scoring in the final chukker, their early lead sealed the win 12-8.
Hit Air’s Jack Whitman on a breakaway.
“Pelon [Escapite] and I have played against each other for years but this was our first opportunity to be on the same team,” Martinez said. “Since both of us usually play the same position we had to figure out how best to complement each other. As the season progressed we learned how to play off of each other and that made it easier for Jack [Whitman] and Justin [Pimsner],” Martinez continued. “We really didn’t change our strategy much after the first two tournaments,” Whitman added. “Our confidence in each other grew more after each tournament and we found ways to help each other and play as a team a lot in the last tournament!”
Brookland Plantation’s Cody Ellis carries the ball with Hit Air’s Alan Martinez defending.
Responsible for half of Hit Air’s goals, Pelon Escapite was named Most Valuable Player. “Considering the different dynamic Cody [Ellis] would bring to the final, we knew we needed to go in hitting the ball and spreading the field,” Escapite revealed. “We managed to do that and my teammates played great. Even though we lost the first two 12-goal tournaments we never became frustrated with each other!”
Best Playing Pony honors were presented to 12-year-old mare Ruby, played by Escapite in the fifth chukker. “I got Ruby from my cousin and I’ve owned her for six years,” Escapite said. “I love her because she has always given me everything she has on the field.”
Best Playing Pony, Ruby, played and owned by Pelon Escapite. Pictured with Bartolo Hernandez.
After competing in three consecutive tournaments, the members of Hit Air were focused on the same goal and accomplished what they had set out to do. “Everyone had a job to do and when the game got tight we came together and fought harder.” Pimsner said. “Winning the Bronze Trophy® is a fantastic way to end the season!”
All photos ©Katie Roth.
*Jack Whitman is a member of Team USPA and Cody Ellis is a graduating Team USPA member. 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.