Port Mayaca (Hope Arellano*, Nico Diaz Alberdi*, Kristos “Keko” Magrini*, Santino Magrini*) pushed their offense against Dutta Corp/Show+ (Jack Whitman*, Timmy Dutta*, Joaquin Avendaño, Hilario Figueras) in the final two chukkers of play to win the first ever U.S. Junior Open Test Match held at International Polo Club Palm Beach (IPC) in Wellington, Florida. Doubling their opponents on the scoreboard 8-4, Port Mayaca also received $10,000 in tournament prize money. U.S. Polo Assn. served as the official sponsor of the event.
Though playing at an impressive pace, scoring started off low for both teams. Figueras put the first goal on the board from the 60-yard line for Dutta Corp/Show+. Most Valuable Player Santino Magrini scored the first of his four goals in the match to answer back for Port Mayaca.
“This test match was the first step for creating a tournament that can motivate young players and encourage them to compete and keep improving.” – Nico Diaz Alberdi
Fouls and multiple missed attempts on goal plagued the young players throughout the first two chukkers of play. The only additional score came from a Penalty 1 in the second chukker for Port Mayaca, 2-1. Alberdi commented on the team’s opening plays, “we stuck to our strategy to create opportunities but we were just hurrying with the ball.”
Santino’s younger brother, Keko Magrini expertly converted a Penalty 3 to close out the first half 3-1 in favor of Port Mayaca. “We started to click in the third chukker and began to capitalize on our opportunities,” said top female player, Hope Arellano.
The momentum continued to tip in favor of Port Mayaca as the fourth chukker began. Santino Magrini kicked the pace up a notch and narrowed his focus on the goal in the fourth. The open style of hit and run play demonstrated the talent of the young players to the spectators alongside the field. With time ticking down in the five chukker match, Figueras kept Dutta Corp/Show+ in the game with his second goal, this time artfully placing one through from the field.
Port Mayaca quickly responded. Santino Magrini sent his team’s third goal of the chukker through the goal posts to end the fourth 6-2 in their favor.
Slowing down their opponents, Figueras opened the final chukker of play with a goal from the 30-yard line and a second goal from the field, but Dutta Corp/Show+’s efforts fell short. Both of the Magrini brothers scored once more doubling Port Mayaca 8-4 as the final bell rang.
Alberdi credits their solid coaching team of Julio Arellano, Matias Magrini and Alejandro “Piki” Diaz-Alberdi on the sidelines for keeping the team focused throughout the match.
Santino Magrini was recognized as Most Valuable Player. “The tournament is a good opportunity to test yourself against other players of the same age,” noted Santino Magrini. “It was a very fun tournament and I hope it will continue to be played.”
Don Ercole Maria, played by Keko Magrini, was awarded Best Playing Pony.
The U.S. Junior Open Test Match, open to players 21 and younger at the start of the tournament, is the first open format tournament specifically for young players in the United States. Chrys Beal, former chair of the USPA Polo Development, LLC, Junior Committee developed the concept several years prior and worked with current chair, Tiger Kneece, IPC and the USPA to bring it to fruition this year.
“Overall, it was an incredible tournament and a great idea,” said Hope Arellano.“ I don’t think it could have gone better for the first year. I would love to see it played again next year.” Teammate Alberdi agreed and acknowledged the potential for the tournament going forward, “it was the first step for something that can become really exciting and motivating for young players to encourage them to compete and keep improving.”
Hope Arellano, Nico Diaz Alberdi, Kristos “Keko” Magrini, Santino Magrini, Jack Whitman and Timmy Dutta are Active Team USPA Members. 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.