Starting off with a field of ten teams in the 2021 Heritage Cup™, it all came down to the final on Tuesday, March 2, between BTA (Nacho Badiola, Steve Krueger*, Juan Martin Obregon, Kelly Beal) and Postage Stamp Farm (Annabelle Gundlach, Brandon Phillips, Santino Magrini*, Mariano Gonzalez, sub. Leon Schwencke) at Port Mayaca Polo Club in Okeechobee, Florida. Both teams entered the final with a 3-1 record, but BTA’s explosive start with six unanswered goals ultimately set the tone, withstanding the late pressure from Postage Stamp Farm and riding to the 10-6 victory.
Postage Stamp Farm’s Mariano Gonzalez and BTA’s Nacho Badiola battle for possession.
Bringing a 12-goal team to the final with Schwencke substituting for Brandon Phillips, Postage Stamp Farm began with two goals on handicap, however, their advantage was cut in half on the first play as BTA drove downfield and crushed a nearside shot from 30 yards out for their first goal. Holding Postage Stamp Farm to just one shot in the first chukker, BTA’s consistent pressure on the ball resulted in a steal from Krueger on the sideboards which he was able to run in and tie the score 2-all. Throw-ins proved to be a crucial factor as BTA won the first three of the second chukker to build consistent attacks that resulted in four unanswered goals, three coming from Obregon. “I think the key to our success in the tournament was working as a team, trusting each other to make the right plays and working to bring out our strong points as individual players,” Obregon shared.
A Penalty 4 conversion from Gonzalez broke the silence for Postage Stamp Farm in the second as they worked to narrow the deficit. Adding two more goals to open the third, Obregon was followed up by teammate Badiola to extend the lead still further with BTA forcing turnovers in the middle of the field. “We knew each other prior to the tournament but this was the first time we all played together,” Badiola revealed. “We tried to play our game and keep doing what we knew was working.” Capturing their first field goal off the mallet of Schwencke, Postage Stamp Farm had a lot of ground to make up in the second half, the score 9-4 in favor of BTA.
BTA’s Steve Krueger was awarded Most Valuable Player in the victory over Postage Stamp Farm.
Converting a Penalty 2 on a foul that carried over from the end of the third chukker, BTA extended their lead to five as their focus turned to maintaining the gap and preventing any runs from Postage Stamp Farm. The fourth was a back-and-forth chukker as the ball changed possession often with Gundlach picking up a pass on the 60-yard line and running it through the goal to leave the scoreboard 10-5. BTA’s offense slowed throughout the rest of the game, held scoreless in the fifth and sixth chukkers, but their defense remained strong, preventing their opponents from coming within reach. Gonzalez’s second goal of the game came in the sixth against an organized BTA defense, but ultimately BTA’s initial lead was too great to overcome and they claimed the title with a 10-6 victory.
“Going up against Postage Stamp Farm knowing they are a very strong team, each of us focused on moving the ball and making sure we turned for our backshots and controlled our opponent as best we could,” Obregon said. “It was a tough final game but we played well as a team.” “Steve [Krueger], Juan Martin [Obregon] and Nacho [Badiola] complement each other on the field,” Beal echoed. “It was a fun and competitive tournament with many strong teams!”
Best Playing Pony Open Phuket, played and owned by Santino Magrini. Presented by Florida Circuit Governor Stevie Orthwein and pictured with Claudio Insaurralde, Adonis Rosa, Chonte Escudero and Alejandro Diaz.
BTA’s Steve Krueger was awarded Most Valuable Player for his play on both sides of the ball. “I felt like we improved every game throughout the tournament,” Krueger said. “We figured out our strengths to be successful with Juan Martin [Obregon] and Kelly [Beal] controlling in the back and Nacho [Badiola] carrying the ball forward. It always takes everyone playing well and a bit of luck to win a tournament and this was a great one to win!”
Best Playing Pony was awarded to Open Phuket (Open Tailandesa x Sobretodo), an 11-year-old mare played and owned by Santino Magrini.
*Santino Magrini is an Active Team USPA Member. Steve Krueger is a Team USPA Alumni 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.
All photos courtesy of ©David Lominska.