Reigning Champions Zone 3 Take Home the Cecil Smith Cup for Second Consecutive Year!

Santa Barbara, CA – September 4, 2017 – Five months of qualifying tournaments nationwide concluded on Sunday, September 3, in the National Youth Tournament Series (NYTS) Championship Final. Twenty-four extraordinary youth polo players from all over the country traveled to the spectacular Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club in Carpinteria, California, for one intensive weekend of tournament polo and the chance to have their name engraved on the Cecil Smith Cup. Established in 2013, NYTS is the first national outdoor tournament series for youth competitors—providing opportunities for young rated players who do not exceed 19 years of age to compete against their peers. After two close semifinal matches on Friday, September 1, defending champions Zone 3 (Florida Circuit) in blue, coached by Tom Goodspeed, and Zone 4 (Eastern and Northeastern Circuit) in green, coached by Nick Snow*, secured their positions in the featured 3:00pm match on the stadium Field 2. Friends and family from all over the world who were unable to attend in person tuned into the USPA Polo Network for a unique opportunity to be part of this momentous championship final.

2017 National Youth Tournament Series Champions- Zone 3 Lucas Escobar, Mackenzie Weisz, Justin Daniels, Nico Escobar. PC Elizabeth Hedley
2017 National Youth Tournament Series Champions- Zone 3 Lucas Escobar, Mackenzie Weisz, Justin Daniels, Nico Escobar. All photos © Elizabeth Hedley

Zone 3 controlled the game from the very first bowl-in, swiftly making up the 1.5 goal deficit Zone 4 had amassed due to handicap. A field goal from Liam Lott on an exceptional carry with a bouncing ball from end to end sustained Zone 4’s narrow lead 2.5-2 at the end of the chukker. An unstoppable Zone 3 shut out their opponents in the second, every member contributing a goal to the total tally by the end of the first half. Nico Escobar commenced the scoring streak with an undefended penalty conversion which fueled Zone 3’s fire, unleashing a series of excellently executed team plays. On two occasions, passes from teammates found Zone 3 players undefended and both Justin Daniels and Lucas Escobar calmly stick-and-balled to goal for the score. Zone 4 could not catch a break, a Penalty 4 flying high and wide as Lucas Escobar sunk yet another between the uprights to widen Zone 3’s lead to a commanding 6-2.5 at the half.

Zone 3's Nico Escobar carries the ball on the nearside riding Gacela, Liam Lott of Zone 4 hustles to defend. PC Elizabeth Hedley
Zone 3’s Nico Escobar carries the ball on the nearside riding Gacela, Liam Lott of Zone 4 hustles to defend.

“You learn so much playing in polo like this, this is the fastest youth polo in the country. In the beginning of the tournament our team was really, really clumped up and towards the end of the game versus Zone 3 today both teams really stretched out and began to play really good, fast, professional level polo. It’s a fantastic opportunity and a fantastic experience.” –Will Green, Zone 4

Zone 4's Will Green on a breakaway. PC Elizabeth Hedley
Zone 4’s Will Green on a breakaway.

A determined Zone 4 rode onto the field for chukker three, scoring within the first minute—a beautiful pass from Lott to Tenzin Tognini. They continued to mount their comeback capitalizing on two penalty conversions, Brennan Wells riding the graceful and steady bay mare Margaret Thatcher owned by Central Coast Polo Club, to bring them within a half goal 6-5.5. By the end of the third, Zone 3’s exemplary team play once again took center stage. Nico Escobar, atop chestnut mare Gacela, skillfully carried the ball on the nearside making a final offside neckshot towards goal that Daniels flew in to finish with a 90-degree cut shot. Mackenzie Weisz finished out the chukker with a neckshot goal off a long midfield pass from Nico Escobar to move into the final period with a three-and-a-half goal lead 8-5.5. A considerable deficit to overcome, Zone 4 suffered a costly mistake a minute into the fourth when horse trouble caused an override of a knock-in that resulted in a bowl-in perpendicular to the end line. Zone 3 capitalized, Nico Escobar scoring immediately out of the lineup on bay gelding Torito; he would single-handedly score all goals in the last chukker of play including a Penalty 4. Wells would manage one more goal for Zone 4 before the end of regulation time, but a closing goal from Nico Escobar cemented Zone 3’s repeat victory 11-6.5. “Our strategy was to have faith in ourselves, go to the man hard and win the game,” said Lucas Escobar when asked how they approached the championship final.

Zone 4's Brennan Wells taps the ball out of the air, Mackenzie Weisz of Zone 3 in pursuit. PC Elizabeth Hedley
Zone 4’s Brennan Wells taps the ball out of the air, Mackenzie Weisz of Zone 3 in pursuit.

“The horses went well, we played well as a team. We listened to each other, we respected each other and passed each other the ball and after that it just paid off.” – Mackenzie Weisz, Zone 3

The Matthew Cohen Most Valuable Player was awarded to 2017 NYTS Champion Lucas Escobar. Zone 4’s Liam Lott received the Horsemanship Award and the Sportsmanship Award was presented to Zone 1’s Sloan Stefanakis. Best Playing Pony honors were awarded to Napa played by Zone 3’s Mackenzie Weisz, owned by Leigh Breechen. In the consolation match Zone 1 (Hawaiian Islands, Pacific Coast, Pacific Northwest, Rocky Mountain, Southwestern, Border circuits) coached by Jesse Bray* defeated Zone 2 (Central, Great Plains, Midstates, Southeastern circuits) coached by Tiger Kneece with an impressive 7-3.5 victory.

West Coast Represents on Home Turf in Inaugural East vs. West Challenge

This year’s NYTS Championship included an inaugural second level of competition, the East vs. West Challenge, which preceded the NYTS Championship Final for the Cecil Smith Cup. Established to represent a wider range of All-Stars selected at qualifying events. The maximum handicap for East vs. West Challenge competitors is A.5 and two female players must play on each team. Players participated in a coached practice match, with two mounted coaches on the field on Friday, September 1, in preparation for the final showdown. An even first chukker resulted in a close 3-2 score, West leading after an impressive three field goals from Bayne Bossom. A penalty conversion from East’s Maddie Grant equalized the score 3-all in the second. This was quickly diffused as West hurdled into the lead once again with three more goals, one each from Grayson Price, Cory Williams and Bossom.

East vs West Challenge Champions- West Coach Jesse Bray, Grayson Price, Bayne Bossom, Athena Malin, Cory Williams, Coach Tiger Kneece. PC Elizabeth Hedley
East vs West Challenge Champions- West Coach Jesse Bray, Grayson Price, Bayne Bossom, Athena Malin, Cory Williams, Coach Tiger Kneece.

West continued their forward momentum following halftime with three unanswered goals, capitalizing on a series of East fouls, converting two to widen their lead 9-3. East changed their game plan for the final chukker, matching their opponents with two goals in the fourth; a Penalty 3 conversion from Landen Daniels and a field goal from Grant. Able to end on a strong note, it was too little too late however, as Bossom added two more to the West tally for a decisive final score 11-5. Most Valuable Player was awarded to Bayne Bossom, game high-scorer with seven goals on the day including five field goals. Best Playing Pony honors were presented to 9-year-old off-the-track Thoroughbred chestnut mare Blanca, played and owned by West’s Cory Williams. “She is from Megan Judge at Central Coast Polo Club,” said Williams. “I got her as a green horse and really got to grow with her. She is now my favorite mare to play. Aside from that, she is such a sweet horse with personality to spare. I am super excited she was awarded Best Playing Pony, she’s a really cool horse.”

East's Maddie Grant and West's Grayson Price battle for possession PC Elizabeth Hedley
East’s Maddie Grant and West’s Grayson Price battle for possession.

*Nick Snow and Jesse Bray are members of Team USPA. 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.

About the United States Polo Association®
The U.S. Polo Association was organized and exists for the purposes of promoting the game of polo, coordinating the activities of its Member Clubs and Registered Players, arranging and supervising polo tournaments, competitions and games, and providing rules, handicaps, and conditions for those tournaments, competitions, and games including the safety and welfare of participants and mounts.

Founded in 1890, the United States Polo Association (USPA) is the national governing body for the sport of polo. USPA is currently comprised of almost 300 member clubs with thousands of individual members, and oversees 40 national tournaments. For more information, please visit uspolo.org.

About the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club
The Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club is the premier destination for polo on the West Coast. Located on the beautiful American Riviera, the Club offers three high goal fields, a Polo School, boarding facilities, polo lessons and country club amenities, including eight tennis courts and a fitness facility, all alongside the Pacific Ocean. The 2017 season opened May 5th and runs through the first week of October. For more information about the Club and to purchase tickets please visit www.sbpolo.com.

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