Established in 2004, the National Amateur Cup made its way to the Lonestar State for the first time in the tournament’s history. Hosted by Two Wishes Polo Club in Lockhart, Texas, and played at San Antonio Polo Club’s Retama Field, four competitive teams assembled on Sunday, October 30, in a single-elimination format due to weather cancellations to crown a new champion. With pressure to perform in two-chukker games, Scuderia (Lauren Sterr, Wes Alston, Trey Crea, Ariel Mancebo) and Oak Bend Farm (Chris Ballard, Fabian Osses, Joss Leufrancois, Nadir Khan) worked their way to the final. In the end, Scuderia claimed the National Amateur Cup 5.5-3 with a balanced offensive effort.
Oak Bend Farm’s Fabian Osses on the ball, Scuderia’s Wes Alston racing in on defense.
Scuderia’s journey to the final began against Bar Spur (Amanda Osburn, Mark Osburn, Gal Shweiki, Brady Williams). A three-goal effort from Mancebo combined with efficient defensive play secured Scuderia’s first match 5.5-1. Competing together in the past, team captain Crea spoke to Scuderia’s unity, “Myself, Wes Alston, and Lauren Sterr play together quite often and with the help of Ariel Mancebo, our communication helped us be in the right place at the right time. Our victory was in large part due to Ariel’s contributions and the hard work of Wes and Lauren. We played a really good game and I believe the communication and teamwork is what made the difference.”
Scuderia’s Ariel Mancebo keeps the ball just out of reach ahead of Oak Bend Farm’s Fabian Osses.
Eliminating Proton Polo (Steve Stout, Carlos Ramirez, Javier Insua, John Greening) 6-4.5 in the first match of the competition, the 2-goal rated Oak Bend Farm provided a familiar challenge for Scuderia in the final. “Oak Bend Farm always plays well and can move the ball down the field with speed; as they are riding some of the best horses in the club,” said Alston. Mancebo added, “We knew they were a strong [team] that can all hit and run, [so] we knew we needed focus in order to beat them.”
Oak Bend Farm’s Chris Ballard reaches for the play with Scuderia’s Wes Alston in defense.
“We all communicated and listened to each other and were able to make smarter plays as a result. My role was to play upfront and be a target for passes. Trey, Wes, and I always play together, and this was the second tournament we were fortunate enough to get Ariel Mancebo to join us. Ariel is a rockstar and is so much fun to play with.” – Lauren Sterr
Awarding Scuderia 0.5 on handicap, Oak Bend struck first with a goal from Khan. Scuderia quickly turned the tide with a three-goal unanswered run from Alston and Mancebo for a 3.5-1 lead. Speaking to Scuderia’s steady play, Mancebo noted, “My job was to keep everyone positive, we started down by a goal, and all of a sudden, we went up.” Sterr also shed light on Scuderia’s winning team dynamic, sharing, “We all communicated and listened to each other and were able to make smarter plays as a result. My role was to play upfront and be a target for passes. Trey, Wes, and I always play together, and this was the second tournament we were fortunate enough to get Ariel Mancebo to join us. Ariel is a rockstar and is so much fun to play with.”
Scuderia’s Lauren Steer.
Keeping the pressure on Oak Bend to open the second chukker, a goal from Crea kicked off a back and forth between the opponents. Each team scoring twice, both of Scuderia’s goals came from Crea, including the final goal of the match to seal the 5.5-3 victory.
Celebrating their first National Amateur Cup title, Sterr expressed, “Knowing Oak Bend Farm was an overall stronger and higher-rated team, the key to winning was to slow the pace and just play our game. Also, Wes stepped it up to another level and made a significant impact in each game.”
Oak Bend Farm and Scuderia shake hands following the hard-fought finals match.
“I attribute our victory to our team’s ability to play well together under pressure, communicate effectively on the field and to work as a team in passing the ball.” – Wes Alston
Scoring two goals in the final, Wes Alston was named Most Valuable Player. “I attribute our victory to our team’s ability to play well together under pressure, communicate effectively on the field and to work as a team in passing the ball,” said Alston. “I continued to play more defensively, but stayed back more to follow up Ariel for most of the match. This strategy proved useful, as it allowed me to pick up a few passes that I managed to convert into goals. This is my second season playing with this lineup and I always look forward to these tournaments together.” Mancebo added, “Every time Wes had a chance to score, he did, and he really deserves to be MVP.”
Most Valuable Player Wes Alston contributed two-goals in Scuderia’s National Amateur Cup victory.
“First and foremost, for a mare standing at 14.1 hands, Rosie has the heart of a lion. She has a great mouth, balanced gaits, a big motor and doesn’t shy away from a ride-off, even against much larger horses. She compliments her rider and elevates their gameplay.” – Fabian Osses
Best Playing Pony was awarded to Rosie, played by Fabian Osses and co-owned by Chris Ballard and Osses. “Fabian found Rosie at a neighbouring ranch when she was barely halter-broke and has spent the last several years training and playing her,” shared Ballard. “First and foremost, for a mare standing at 14.1 hands, Rosie has the heart of a lion,” said Osses. “She has a great mouth, balanced gaits, a big motor and doesn’t shy away from a ride-off, even against much larger horses. She compliments her rider and elevates their gameplay.” Osses continued, “Off the field, Rosie is a team player, she’s always in the middle of the herd with her friends. She’s an easy-keeper and doesn’t have any bad habits, she’s one of those special horses that can be ridden by a beginner or child; she’s just as comfortable on a trail ride as she is on the polo field.” Ballard added, “She has turned into this incredible mare due to Fabian’s talent, patience, and respect for his equine teammate.”
Susan Alston grooming for her son, Wes Alston.
Recognizing her continued positive attitude, fairness, and support for her peers on and off the field, Amanda Osburn was named the Sportsmanship Award recipient. “I was feeling a little defeated after our loss, so winning the Sportsmanship Award was a nice surprise,” said Osburn. She continued, “I usually only play arena- this was my first time competing in a USPA grass tournament and I’ve been trying out some field practices and slower games. I learned a lot from the experience and I’m looking forward to playing more!”
All photos courtesy of ©David Murrell.