In an anticipated rematch of the final game of bracket play, Black Oak (Estani Puch Jr., Johann Colloredo-Mansfeld, Felipe Viana*, Estani Puch) defeated AVID/Longmeadow (Ari Dogani, Reed Miller, Federico Wulff, Ernesto Trotz) by one goal for the second time within a week to claim the Chairman’s Cup at Myopia Polo Club in South Hamilton, Massachusetts. Each entering the final with a 2-1 record, Black Oak built off their previous 10-9 victory against AVID/Longmeadow, as a 10-goal contribution from Black Oaks’ leading scorer Viana provided his team with enough cushion to outlast the competition and raise the trophy 12-11.
AVID/Longmeadow’s Federico Wulff leads the pack downfield.
The first chukker set the tone for the match, the teams trading goals throughout. Early contributions from Black Oaks’ Viana and Estani Jr. were matched by a penalty conversion from Trotz and an open goal off the mallet of Wulff. Emerging in the second chukker, three more goals from Viana, including two from the penalty line offset a lone goal from Trotz to give Black Oak the chukker and 5-3 lead. Scoring twice more in the third, Viana’s impressive offensive accuracy combined with Black Oaks’ ability to hold AVID-Longmeadow to just one goal allowed Black Oak to take a comfortable 7-4 lead at the half.
Felipe Viana led Black Oaks with ten goals, including four penalty conversions.
Establishing a strong chemistry with long-time teammate Colloredo-Mansfeld, Viana expressed the importance of their on-field relationship to produce results in competitive finals such as the Chairman’s Cup, “we understand each other very well and he puts a good amount of pressure up front. It’s very easy for me whenever I pick up the ball, I can either see him or hear him and I know there’s always a target up front. He’s very well mounted and it allows him to cover a lot of the field. With Estani Puch and Estani Jr., when you have a father and son together it adds an extra chemistry on the field, and they did a good job [adding] to the team with the best attitude and a lot of confidence.”
Joining Viana and Colloredo-Mansfeld for a second tournament in the 2022 season, Black Oaks’ Puch shared their strategy against a familiar AVID/Longmeadow, “We knew we had to play a strict defense against Federico Wulff and [Ernesto] Rulo Trotz and use Felipe’s long shots and ball control on offense. Felipe took Rulo Trotz, Johann with Fede Wulff, and me in the middle/back recovering balls and giving Felipe the opportunity to come back and forth, with Estani Jr. playing [number] one and keeping tight defense on Reed Miller.”
Black Oaks’ Johann Collordeo-Mansfeld carries the ball ahead of AVID/Longmeadow’s Reed Miller.
Outscoring their opponents for the first time, Trotz led AVID/Longmeadow with two goals in the fourth chukker to cut their deficit down to two. Exchanging two goals apiece in the fifth, AVID/Longmeadow’s Wulff scored his second of the match, as Colloredo-Mansfeld added his name on the scoresheet for Black Oak to maintain a slim two-goal advantage. “We lost a bit of concentration in the fourth,” noted Puch, “but we kept a couple of goals difference most of the match and got it back together in the fifth and sixth.”
Following a field goal from Viana in the final chukker of regulation, a crucial Penalty 1 awarded to AVID/Longmeadow kickstarted their comeback bid. Holding Viana to just two goals in the period, AVID/Longmeadow’s Trotz stepped-up once more to secure back-to-back goals.
Expressing confidence in his team’s play during AVID/Longmeadow’s final push Viana reflected, “we were expecting these guys to give their everything and that’s what they did. We played a strong game from the first chukker, the idea was to stay calm knowing the pressure was on them. They’re a very good team and we had just enough difference at the end.” “Defense, defense, defense,” emphasized Puch Jr., “as long as we stayed within our marks, we were confident we could win.”
Black Oaks’ Estani Puch on a breakaway.
Coming within one goal in the final moments of play, Black Oak relied on their early lead and final contribution from Viana to run out the clock and earn the Chairman’s Cup victory 12-11.
Reflecting on Black Oaks’ ability to outlast their opponents at the final horn, Black Oaks’ Viana expressed, “the main goal was to stay focused and concentrated, and whenever we had possession to keep the ball and use it in a smart way. Specifically, when I had it, to shoot from distance and put pressure on their side of the field as much as we could. It was a very close and hard-fought final, and it was fun to play and win with this team.”
Black Oaks’ Felipe Viana with a deep neckshot on the boards, AVID/Longmeadow’s Reed Miller on defense.
Accounting for all but three of AVID/Longmeadow’s offense with eight goals, Ernesto “Rulo” Trotz was named MVP. “I’m very happy to win MVP in the most important tournament of the Myopia season,” said Trotz, “although we lost in the final, it’s always good to be rewarded for all ‘our’ hard work. When I say ‘our’— I mean me and Federico Wulff, everything I play win, lose, whatever I do here in the U.S. is because of him. So, this award is as much his as it is mine.”
Most Valuable Player Ernesto Trotz accounted for eight of AVID/Longmeadow’s goals.
Milonga, a 7-year-old American thoroughbred owned by brothers Felipe and Ignacio “Nachi” Viana took home Best Playing Pony honors. The chestnut mare is part of a project the brothers started in 2020, buying horses off the track with the goal of turning them into polo ponies. Each sibling dedicates time to the individual horse at different stages in their career, to find the best compliment of ability, level of play and chemistry to produce the best end product. “This is her first season,” shared Viana who played her in the third and sixth chukkers, “it’s a huge, huge joy to have her win a tournament and BPP like this. She did outstanding and gave me a couple of goals where she showed a lot of potential. She’s very special and the perfect type of horse, the perfect size, with a very good mouth.” The first American thoroughbred the brothers decided to invest in together, she is a testament to the success of their new program in the United States.
Best Playing Pony Milonga, played by Felipe Viana and owned by Felipe and Ignacio “Nachi” Viana. Pictured with Allison Mandriota.
Continuing an impressive streak of four BPP awards in a row in the Chairman’s Cup, Viana spoke to the success of his family’s organization that originates in Uruguay, “In 2021 and 2019, a Uruguayan thoroughbred Lady Rose won BPP that I played that Nachi and I made, and in 2020, Nachi won BPP on Pichicata, a Uruguayan homebred. Both horses I brought to the U.S. as I was competing here and had the necessity to mount myself. Winning any award that tracks back to family efforts is always the feeling.”
Estani Puch Jr. and Sr. celebrate their Chairman’s Cup victory.
For Puch, competing and winning with his son proved to be the most rewarding experience of the day, “It was a dream come true,” shared Puch, “I’ve been playing professionally at Myopia for the last 17 years and my son is 15, so he was born in it.” Puch Jr. added, “me and my dad always play together, he has trained me my whole life and now it’s finally paying off.” “It was the best feeling of realization,” continued Puch, “winning the most prestigious USPA tournament of the club with my son.”
*Felipe Viana is Team USPA alumnus. 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 ©Jacqueline Miller.