Played at Texas Military Polo Club LLC in Poteet, Texas, “The Best Little Grass Arena in Texas” hosted the 11thAnnual Teddy Roosevelt final on Sunday, November 19. The USPA Sanctioned event featured three teams, including Patton Legacy Sports (Gal Shweiki, Karl Hilberg, Nadir Khan), Scuderia SA (Lauren Sterr, Wesley “Wes” Alston, Trey Crea) and Polo InterActive (Jose “Manolito” Velez, Jocelyn “Joss” Leufrancois, Zackary “Zak” Coleman).
A “continuous scorekeeping” format was utilized for the tournament, meaning two days of round-robin play accumulated into two four-chukker matches for each team. The tournament was also played under new arena tournament conditions: (1) two-point penalty four, (2) fair play hit and (3) buzzer beater.
Scuderia SA’s Wes Alston leads the pack with a booming shot down the arena.
The tournament experienced much cooler weather compared to the Texas summer and kicked off on time with a bowl in between Patton Legacy Sports and Scuderia SA, Scuderia holding two goals on handicap at the onset of the match. Patton Legacy Sports’ Shweiki won the bowl in and raced immediately to goal. After numerous failed penalty conversion attempts from both teams, Shweiki followed up with two more field goals to end the first 3-2, Patton Legacy Sports leading. Starting the scoring in the second, Patton Legacy Sports’ Hilberg was quickly matched by Scuderia SA’s Alston. Apart from a Penalty 1 in favor of Scuderia SA, the rest of the chukker was dominated by Patton Legacy Sports as Khan scored two and Shweiki one. Heading into the overnight halftime it was Patton Legacy Sports leading 7-4.
Patton Legacy Sports’ Karl Hilberg on Best Playing Pony Ms Scarlett taps the ball ahead of Scuderia SA’s Lauren Sterr.
Returning to the field it was Scuderia SA now facing Polo InterActive – once again, Scuderia began the match with two goals on handicap. Coleman started the scoring for Polo InterActive followed by teammate Velez with a goal from 20 yards out. Polo InterActive continued their forward momentum with a Penalty 1 and two more field goals from Coleman. Starting the second trailing by three Scuderia SA’s Alston and Crea worked to close the gap, but Leufrancois and Coleman matched their opponents to maintain the gap, 7-4.
Saturday’s last two chukkers featured Patton Legacy Sports versus Polo InterActive. Both teams rated 4-goals, the match was played on the flat. Again, it was Shweiki for Patton Legacy Sports who opened the scoring. Polo InterActive’s Leufrancois answered with back-to-back goals to take the lead before Khan dribbled one in to equalize the score. On fire in the second, Leufrancois capitalized on a two-pointer follows by a goal from Coleman and another two-point shot that pushed Polo InterActive ahead by five. Three minutes remaining in the chukker, the scoring slowed, but Polo InterActive’s Leufrancois and Coleman were able to add three more goals between them to hold the lead 10-2 before the final bell for the chukker rang out.
Polo InterActive’s Zak Coleman.
Sunday was cool and misty for Patton Legacy Sports and Scuderia SA’s second half. Khan started the scoring for Patton Legacy Sports with a two-point Penalty 2 through the posts and over Crea’s head. Scuderia SA’s Alston answered turning a defensive play near his goal mouth into a run the length of the field to score. The rest of the chukker was all Hilberg for Patton Legacy Sports as he scored both a backshot and a bellyshot goal, capping the chukker off with a Penalty 2 conversion. In the fourth and final chukker, Scuderia SA’s Alston reeled with three back-to-back goals, but it was not enough as both Shweiki and Hilberg replied with two each leading Patton Legacy Sports to a 16-8 victory.
Scuderia SA returned to the field for their final two chukkers against Polo InterActive. The first chukker of the day and the third of their match was a defensive battle. Polo InterActive’s Coleman was able to break through with three unmatched goals. Polo InterActive continued to control the ball in the fourth to end their game ahead 13-5.
Most Valuable Player Joss Leufrancois, presented by Karl Hilberg.
The final two chukkers between Patton Legacy Sports and Polo InterActive served as the championship match since both teams defeated Scuderia SA. Khan came firing on all cylinders scoring three goals with one added by Shweiki to be matched by Polo InterActive’s Coleman with two. Heading into the fourth and final chukker, Polo InterActive had a decisive six-goal lead. Scoring first was Hilberg for Polo InterActive with a Penalty 2 conversion followed by Khan and Shweiki with a goal each; however, Polo InterActive responded goal for goal to capture the victory with a resounding 15-9 final score.
Jackrabbit Tack Sportsmanship recipient Lauren Sterr, presented by Karl Hilberg.
Joselyn “Joss” Leufrancois was named Most Valuable Player, while the Jackrabbit Tack Sportsmanship Award was presented to Lauren Sterr. Best Playing Pony was awarded to Ms Scarlett, a thoroughbred (racing name Devilishly Wild) played by Karl Hilberg and owned by Karl and Julie Hilberg. Karl’s wife Julie bought the mare for her husband at a polo horse auction in early 2012. “At the time, she was just off the racetrack and had one season of green polo,” recalled Karl Hilberg. “She then received some training from Doug Brunet, and I have been playing her ever since. This tournament was her first polo since June 2023, and she played very well for me. My favorite horse in my string!”
Best Playing Pony Ms Scarlett, played by Karl Hilberg and owned by Karl and Julie Hilberg.
All photos courtesy of ©David Murrell.