The Regional President’s Cup final at Brandywine Polo Club (Toughkenamon, Pennsylvania) featured Hawkwood Polo (Leandro Berrios, Barclay Knapp, Martin Ravina, Sophie Grant*), seeking to defend their 2021 title against Taylor Hill Farm/La Monarquia (Marcos Onetto, Sarah Martin, CJ Martin, Martin Estrada, Megan Maunbay) on Sunday, August 7.
Both entering the final after convincing semifinal triumphs, the result was an exhilarating conclusion that needed overtime to determine the champion. Trailing throughout most of the game, Hawkwood Polo fought their way back to even the score in the last minute with Martin Ravina scoring the golden goal in the extra chukker to claim the Regional President’s Cup title 7-6 for the second consecutive year.
At the onset of the final, Hawkwood Polo were aware of the experience of Taylor Hill Farm/La Monarquia’s Estrada and Onetto, adapting their strategy in an attempt to slow the two down. “We decided to play open to split the two strong experienced players,” shared Ravina, but the opening chukker belonged to Taylor Hill Farm/La Monarquia, who exploded out of the gate to claim an early lead. Consecutive penalty goals by Onetto from the 30- and 40-yard lines were quickly followed by a field goal from Estrada, resulting in a 3-1 advantage for Taylor Hill Farm/La Monarquia.
Taylor Hill/La Monarquia’s Marcos Onetto and Hawkwood Polo’s Leandro Berrios battle for possession.
Realizing that their change of strategy may not be working in their favor, Hawkwood Polo adjusted during the first chukker break. “The first chukker didn’t go well so we decided to go with Plan B, which was to send Leandro [Berrios] to the hitter, Sophie [Grant] and Barclay [Knapp] trying to push the team forward and me trying to control the middle of the field,” explained Ravina, with the change helping to slow their opponent’s attack. Unable to find the scoresheet in the second chukker, Hawkwood Polo saw their deficit grow to three after Onetto’s third penalty conversion of the match left the score at 4-1 entering halftime.
Using the extra time in the tent to focus on slowing Taylor Hill Farm/La Monarquia’s attack, Hawkwood began to gain momentum in the opening stages of the second half and fight their way back from their early deficit. “Our key was becoming more aggressive on defense and actually more patient on offense to claw our way back into it,” described Knapp, who would score Hawkwood Polo’s first field goal of the game in the third chukker. Adding consecutive conversions from the penalty line, Ravina helped bring Hawkwood Polo back within one, changing the dynamic of the final chukker that remained. Just steps away from completing the comeback, Ravina explained the focus was on continuing to play well. “For us, it was to not look at the score and keep playing hard and believing in ourselves.”
Adding a field goal early in the fourth chukker, the score was even 5-all as tension rose on the field, but a crucial Penalty 4 conversion for Onetto restored Taylor Hill Farm/La Monarquia’s one-goal advantage. With time ticking down, the whistle blew sending Ravina to the 60-yard line with a final chance to tie the game and force overtime. Confidently stepping up in the moment, the ball sailed through the posts as the horn sounded and Hawkwood Polo sent the game into overtime.
Martin Ravina was awarded Most Valuable Player for his late fourth chukker and overtime golden goal heroics.
With the outcome yet to be decided, Leandro Berrios indicated the importance of keeping their eyes on the prize, saying “the main thing was to support each other, encourage each other and never stop pushing, and the most important thing was to stay focused until the end.” Each team pushed to claim the victory, but a foul sent Ravina back to the 60-yard line where he had the opportunity to score a defining goal once again. Drawing on his recent conversion, Ravina executed one final time, converting the Penalty 4 and capturing the Regional President’s Cup title in dramatic fashion with the 7-6 victory.
Retaining their title from 2021, Hawkwood Polo drew on chemistry in the tense moments of the match from playing previous seasons together. “We won the 6-goal with this team last year at Brandywine, so we had great chemistry coming in,” mentioned Knapp, who continued by saying, “It’s really hard to win USPA tournaments, so it was a complete thrill to capture this one again in 2022.” The feeling was echoed by Berrios, who joined Knapp as a returning member from last year’s title winning team. “It’s always nice to win, and a second time is even more rewarding. It is a very competitive tournament with good teams and players.”
Hawkwood Polo’s Leandro Berrios and Martin Ravina celebrate their Regional President’s Cup victory.
For his late fourth chukker and overtime heroics, Martin Ravina was named Most Valuable Player. “Winning MVP is a bonus. I was very happy after the game for all the effort, all the people who work behind the scenes, team owners, managers and my family.” Although they managed just two field goals, Hawkwood Polo relied on the penalty shooting of Ravina, whose five penalty conversions helped carry them to victory.
Best Playing Pony was awarded to Martin Estrada’s Tachuela, his first chukker mare that contributed to Taylor Hill Farm/La Monarquia’s explosive start. “I started playing her in the first chukker because she’s so good,” explained Estrada, who bought the mare off the track, convincing the owners to sell her to him. “I saw her run from above in the stands and was impressed with her power. I called the owners and trainers for 25 days and it was the twenty-sixth day they called me back and said they would sell her.” The unique traits of Tachuela are seen in her unique power, but also in her being a popular pick in his polo school. “She is one of the favorites for coaching chukkers. I put new beginners on her and she’s a sweetheart. Very powerful when she gets to the field, but very popular in the polo school.”
Best Playing Pony Tachuela, played and owned by Martin Estrada.
For the second consecutive year, Brandywine Polo Club hosted the qualifying tournament for the National President’s Cup with the players stating how impressed they were with the tournament. “We are grateful to Brandywine Polo Club for inviting us, the organization is always perfect,” shared Berrios, while Ravina concluded by saying, “I want to mention all the work that Brandywine Polo Club is doing. Their fields and polo are getting better year by year.”
*Sophie Grant is an Active 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.
All photos courtesy of ©Elizabeth Hedley.