For the first time in the history of the U.S. Open Polo Championship, the most prestigious title on American soil, 20 teams competed, with the GAUNTLET OF POLO also allowing individual tournament entries for the only time in its four-year span.
Featuring a mix of established champions in the quarterfinals including Park Place (Andrey Borodin, Juan Britos, Hilario Ulloa, Cody Ellis*), Pilot (Curtis Pilot, Mackenzie Weisz, Matias Torres Zavaleta, Facundo Pieres) and Scone (David Paradice, Kristos “Keko” Magrini*, Poroto Cambiaso, Guillermo “Sapo” Caset, sub. Kylie Sheehan*), along with newcomers Aspen Valley Polo Club (Vincenzo Sangaline, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Pablo Mac Donough, Tommy Collingwood) and Polo Training Foundation (Carlitos Gracida, Matias Gonzalez*, Nic Roldan, Jesse Bray*), the matches produced exceptional polo to set the scene for an exhilarating conclusion to the high-goal season at the International Polo Club Palm Beach (IPC) in Wellington, Florida.
Averaging two goals per game, Christian “Magoo” Laprida’s offensive contributions lifted Tamera over Nic Roldan and Polo Training Foundation into the semifinals of the U.S. Open Polo Championship.
Three of the four quarterfinals were decided by just one goal, highlighting the competitive level of play throughout the tournament. USPA Gold Cup champions Pilot secured first place in the semifinals with an impressive 12-8 victory over SD Farms (Sayyu Dantata, Pedrinho “Pedro” Zacharias, Felipe Vercellino, Felipe Viana, sub. Juan Vidal Dominguez), with the second quarterfinal between Tamera (Alejandro Poma, Segundo Saravi, Christian “Magoo” Laprida, Diego Cavanagh) and Polo Training Foundation needing overtime. Reaching their second consecutive semifinal, Tamera emerged victorious on the game-winning goal from Cavanagh as two spots remained on the second day of quarterfinal play.
Geronimo Obregon’s strong efforts on both sides of the ball, including 10 goals throughout the U.S. Open Polo Championship assisted in La Elina’s quarterfinal victory over Aspen Valley Polo Club.
Facing each other in elimination play for the sixth consecutive time in the GAUNTLET, Park Place defeated Scone for a third time this year, staving off a late comeback attempt to capture the narrow 9-8 victory. All attention turned to the feature game of the week on U.S. Polo Assn. Field 1 with La Elina (Juan Martin Obregon, Geronimo Obregon*, Facundo Obregon, Jared Zenni*) defeating previously unbeaten Aspen Valley Polo Club 11-10 in the final minutes to keep their title hopes alive. After a draw, the semifinal matches are set with Tamera and La Elina competing in the first semifinal while a highly-anticipated rematch of the USPA Gold Cup final between Park Place and Pilot will conclude play on Wednesday, April 20.
LA ELINA VS TAMERA
La Elina – Jared Zenni, Facundo Obregon, Geronimo Obregon, Juan Martin Obregon.
Displaying the most balanced line-up of the tournament, La Elina features two 5-goalers in Geronimo and Juan Martin Obregon along with 6-goalers Facundo Obregon and Zenni. La Elina has been exceptional since suffering an overtime loss to Scone in their opening game of the tournament, winning four consecutive games including a playoff victory against Sol de Agosto (Grant Ganzi*, Paco de. Narvaez Jr., Victorino “Torito” Ruiz Jorba, Juan Martín Nero). Trailing only Park Place in field goals per game in the tournament, while leading all teams in assists by a large margin at 6.8 per game, La Elina demonstrates a fast, passing attack where any of their four players can jump forward in the play. Led by 6.2 goals per game from Juan Martin Obregon, who ranks seventh among all players, La Elina applies immense pressure on opposing defenses, but they tend to find themselves in foul trouble, committing a tournament-high 12.8 fouls per game.
Tamera – Diego Cavanagh, Magoo Laprida, Segundo Saravi, Alejando Poma.
After reaching the semifinals in the USPA Gold Cup, Tamera seeks to take the next step entering their match against La Elina with a 3-1 record, with their only loss coming in a narrow one-goal defeat to Audi (Marc Ganzi, Jason Crowder, Bartolome Castagnola, Paco de Narvaez). Finding a way to win, Tamera relies on 9-goaler Cavanagh, who has averaged 5.8 goals per game in the U.S. Open Polo Championship, while consistently receiving one or two goals per game from each of the three remaining players. Not committing or receiving a high number of fouls, Tamera has excelled in open play by playing a style similar to La Elina, where the ball moves with pace. Conceding just 9.3 goals per game, Tamera will look to slow the La Elina attack in what will be a competitive opening semifinal.
PARK PLACE VS PILOT
Park Place – Andrey Borodin, Juan Britos, Hilario Ulloa, Cody Ellis.
Holding a 12-2 record in the GAUNTLET, Park Place has been dominant throughout the season and carried their strong play into the U.S. Open Polo Championship. Averaging 12.8 field goals per game, which is higher than all but two team’s scores from both the field and penalty line combined, demonstrates Park Place’s ability to pull away in games with relentless scoring. Ulloa and Britos spearhead the attack, combining for 12.0 goals per game in the tournament. The emergence of Ellis has been crucial to Park Place’s success, increasing his scoring in each tournament to provide 2.3 goals per game. Re-joining the team, Borodin has not missed a step, contributing one goal while helping move the ball downfield as part of Park Place’s potent attack.
Pilot – Curtis Pilot, Mackenzie Weisz, Matias Torres Zavaleta, Facundo Pieres.
Pilot’s one and only loss of the season came on February 23, in the C.V. Whitney Cup semifinals to Park Place. Since then, Pilot has been an undefeated 9-0, finding redemption over Park Place to capture the USPA Gold Cup in the process. Averaging 7.0 goals per game on accurate 63% shooting from the field and 89% from the penalty line, Pieres has played at an elite level, displaying exceptional horsepower for Pilot. Along with the consistent play of Weisz and Zavaleta, Pilot has demonstrated an ability to score quickly, but their unbeaten run has been largely attributed to their defense. Conceding a tournament best 6.8 goals per game, Pilot’s organized defense has prevented opponents from scoring at their normal rate, which will be crucial in their match against Park Place as they try to claim their second consecutive title in the GAUNTLET.
Semifinal action begins on Wednesday at 11:00am ET when La Elina faces Tamera, while Park Place and Pilot meet at 3:00pm ET at the International Polo Club Palm Beach, exclusively on Global Polo TV.
*Kristos ‘Keko’ Magrini is an Active Team USPA Member. Matias Gonzalez is a Graduating Team USPA Member. Jesse Bray, Cody Ellis, Grant Ganzi, Geronimo Obregon, Kylie Sheehan and Jared Zenni 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.
All photos courtesy of ©David Lominska.