Advancing from a field of five teams, Old Pueblo (Leigh Anne Hall, Audry Persano*, Jeff Hall, Toto Collardin) went head-to-head against Whitehall/Brookshire Polo (Scott Wood, Bill Lane, Matt Coppola*, Santiago Torres) in the final of the Regional Classic-Southwestern at Brookshire Polo Club in Brookshire, Texas. Meeting for the first time in the national 12-goal tournament, an undefeated Old Pueblo faced stiff competition from a 2-1 Whitehall/Brookshire Polo led by Team USPA alumnus Coppola. Accounting for five of his team’s six goals, Coppola’s ability to strike from the field was countered by the firepower of veterans Jeff Hall and Collardin. Combining for seven goals between the talented duo, Old Pueblo’s offensive success alongside two chukkers of defensive shutdown launched their team to an 8-6 victory and their first Regional Classic-Southwestern title.
Kick-starting the match with a charge, Jeff Hall went back-to-back for Old Pueblo, drawing a Penalty 1 followed by a goal in open play to give his team an early 2-0 advantage. Mounting a strong response to keep in close contention, Whitehall/Brookshire Polo’s Lane responded from the field, followed by an impressive effort from the mallet of Coppola. Striking on a Penalty 3, Coppola’s dominant first half included three more successful drives from the field to account for four of Whitehall/Brookshire Polo’s goals. Matching Whitehall/Brookshire Polo stride for stride, Persano added her name to the scoresheet. Teammate Hall added another two including a successful Penalty 4 conversion, tying the teams 5-all at the half.
Whitehall/Brookshire Polo’s Santiago Torres. ©Bobby Gerry
Reflecting on her crucial first half goal, Persano stated, “Jeff hit a perfect ball from the throw-in into the goal mouth and I caught the man marking me off guard, I got a few strides ahead and tapped it in.” Despite being tied at halftime, Persano shared the importance of Old Pueblo’s quick start, “I feel like we came out focused and quick. I’d been working each game to get a little faster in transitions and after these past three games I was finally getting up to speed.”
Emerging from the break with the same energy as they started, Old Pueblo once again initiated the scoring, with Collardin capitalizing on his first of two penalty conversions in the chukker. Despite Coppola answering once again from the field, Old Pueblo went into the fifth and final chukker of play holding onto a narrow 7-6 lead. Old Pueblo managed to keep Coppola in check and Whitehall/Brookshire Polo’s offensive attempts at bay, as Collardin sent one final goal through the posts to seal an 8-6 win.
“To win is always great, but to have medium goal back in Houston is more significant. We’ve worked hard to put together a fast, competitive league and the participation speaks for itself.” – Jeff Hall
Leading his team with four goals in the final, Jeff Hall was awarded Most Valuable Player. Reflecting on the early achievements of Old Pueblo, Hall noted, “Toto and I have played together in Florida before, he’s a great teammate and I feel like we complement each other’s style well.” Hall continued, “to win is always great, but to have medium goal back in Houston is even more significant. Martin Munoz and I have worked hard to put together a fast, competitive, and fun league and the participation speaks for itself. We look forward to the growth ahead, and I want to thank the sponsors and players for their commitment.”
Most Valuable Player Jeff Hall led Old Pueblo with four goals in the final. ©Bobby Gerry
Margarita, an 8-year-old bay mare played by Scott Wood in the second and fifth chukkers, was named Best Playing Pony. “She was [purchased] from Gaston Lisioli” shared manager Martin Munoz, “she’s a nice and gentle mare, and one of Scott’s favorites in the new string.”
Sharing the experience of winning her first Regional Classic-Southwestern, Persano added, “it was fun to be in the finals against a team similar to ours—with two players on each team who’ve had success in high-goal polo and two players working to get open and block for the pros to make strategic plays. It was a fun, fast game with lots of amazing horses out there! I’m so thankful for the opportunity to play and learn from some of the best in the Houston area.”
*Audry Persano and Matt Coppola are 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.