After three rounds of bracket play, Klentner Ranch (Justin Klentner, Jacob Klentner*, Jesse Bray*, Dominique Mielle, substitute Tony Uretz) and Rancho Polo/Chogan (Sy Zahedi, Torrey Ripinsky, Alejandro Gonzalez, Jason Crowder) met on the main field in front of a large audience filling the U.S. Polo Assn. grandstand at Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club in Carpinteria, California for the Regional President’s Cup Final.
Rancho Polo/Chogan’s Jason Crowder reaches for the hook on Klentner Ranch’s Dominique Mielle.
After landing in their third final of the season, Rancho Polo/Chogan were knocking on the door of victory and eager for a win. This was evident as Crowder put a goal on the scoreboard in the first seconds of the match. Adding two more goals in the opening chukker, Crowder led Rancho Polo/Chogan to a 4-1 advantage, completing the chukker with a goal from Zahedi. “Our strategy, put together by my outstanding teammates with the help of our team manager Tim Rudy was to play open style ‘Gracida Polo,'” Zahedi said. “That meant minimizing our fouls and taking advantage of our opponent’s mistakes. With me pulling the team forward, Torrey [Ripinsky] occupying the middle and Jason [Crowder] and Ale [Gonzalez] attacking from the flanks–there was no stopping us.”
Rancho Polo/Chogan’s Jason Crowder contributed ten goals on the day in the final match.
Held scoreless from the field in the first half, Klentner Ranch stayed within reach by converting four penalty goals, all off of Bray’s mallet. However, the first half belonged to Rancho Polo/Chogan’s Crowder, finishing with seven goals after three chukkers, scoring from both the field and the penalty line to end the half with a 9-5 lead.
Rancho Polo/Chogan Alejandro Gonzalez keeps his eye on the ball while Klentner Ranch’s Tony Uretz (substitute for Justin Klentner) braces for impact.
Trying to close the gap, Klentner Ranch finally broke through for their first field goal of the match in the fourth chukker, but Rancho Polo/Chogan continued to answer back as Crowder extended his goal total to nine, with two goals on Best Playing Pony Fanta. “We kept it pretty simple,” Crowder said. “Sy [Zahedi] pulled the team with his long runs and big goals. Torrey [Ripinsky] was in the middle on the man, trying to disrupt Jesse [Bray] as much as we could to make space for Ale [Gonzalez] to deliver his amazing passes just outside the goal for me to easily tap it in.” Trying to inch back within reach, Klentner Ranch’s Bray scored two more goals to bring his team within two entering the tense final chukker. Bray’s penalty shooting accuracy was crucial toward the end of the game as he converted a seventh penalty attempt but it was too little too late as the clock ran out and the game ended with a final score of 14-12 in favor of Rancho Polo/Chogan.
Rancho Polo/Chogan Alejandro Gonzalez hits a neckshot in front of defender Klentner Ranch’s Jake Klentner.
In addition to the title Rancho Polo/Chogan took home beautiful bridles and $2,500 in tournament prize money through the USPA’s Tournament Stimulus Package.
Competing against Klentner Ranch twice in bracket play, Rancho Polo/Chogan’s prior experience allowed them to tailor their strategy for the best chance of success in the final. “We are a well-balanced team and we tried to play them more organized defensively,” Gonzalez said. “We made everyone’s job clear and it ended up working in the final!”
Most Valuable Player Jason Crowder presented by Kopu Water’s Mindy Mahy.
Scoring 10 goals, Jason Crowder was named Most Valuable Player. “All the thanks goes to my teammates for doing all the hard work!” Crowder said.
Best Playing Pony honors were presented to Fanta, a 9-year-old mare played by Crowder in the second and sixth chukkers. “Fanta is a very powerful mare and just an absolute beast!” Crowder exclaimed. “She was trained by Julian Daniels and I’ve loved her from the day I bought her from Stevie Orthwein. She has played 8-goal all the way to 26-goal polo and she never misses a play!”
*Jesse Bray is a Graduating Team USPA Member. Jacob Klentner is Team USPA Alumni. 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.