Santa Barbara, Calif. – Sept. 23, 2019 – A loss to Bensoleimani.com/JCPolo the only blemish on their record, Sapa/Gipsy Farms had another shot at redemption in the Bella Vista Designs Regional President’s Cup Final on Sunday, September 22, at the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club in Carpinteria, California. Facing a sizable gap headed into the sixth chukker, Sapa/Gipsy Farms turned the game around to close strong 8-7 in a tremendous display of willpower and skill.
“I love playing with Igor [Seyrenov] because he is always going to give it his all as evidenced by the backshot he hit to tie the game in the sixth. Coming back to win in the sixth chukker was surreal. My job was to be open on offense for Santi [Wulff] or Max [Menini] to hit to and open the field up to carry the ball forward.” – Sapa/Gipsy Farms’ Paige Beard
Dominating the first half of play with offensive prowess, Bensoleimani.com/JCPolo’s confidence on the field carried over from their previous victory against the team in white. After a silent first chukker leaving both sides scoreless, Bensoleimani.com/JCPolo established a lead in the second with three consecutive goals to Santi Wulff’s one. Picking up another pair of goals in the third, Remy Muller* continued to extend his team’s advantage with swift shots from the field. Countering the strong attack, Wulff capitalized on a Penalty 3 conversion to end the half 5-2 in favor of Bensoleimani.com/JCPolo.
Mirroring the first chukker, the second half opened with strong defense preventing either side from scoring a goal in the fourth. Unable to make much progress in the fifth, the three-goal gap remained steady as both teams added one to their tally. Entering the final chukker 6-3 Bensoleimani.com/JCPolo in the lead, Sapa/Gipsy Farms was determined for the game to end differently than their last. Focusing on the final seven-and-a-half minutes of play, Sapa/Gipsy Farms came alive to score five impressive goals, working together to overtake the lead with increased shooting accuracy. Seyrenov leveled the playing field 7-all within the final three minutes of the chukker and Sapa/Gipsy Farms high-scorer Wulff sealed the win with a Penalty 5 conversion from centerfield. Tapping the ball across the goal in the final seconds of play, Sapa/Gipsy Farms’ persistence narrowly claimed the trophy 8-7.
Responsible for five goals of Sapa/Gipsy’s eight total, Santi Wulff was named Most Valuable Player. Reflecting on the game, Wulff discussed how his team successfully regrouped and was able to play a cohesive final chukker. “We could not connect in the first five chukkers so consequently we missed a lot of goals and penalty shots,” Wulff said. “However, we never panicked and we stayed close on the scoreboard knowing that if we clicked as a team we could be back in the game again.”
Best Playing Pony honors were presented to Santi Von Wernich’s Casanova, a 12-year-old gelding he played in the second and sixth chukkers. “Casanova is from Ellerston’s breeding operation in Australia,” Von Wernich said. “He is a great horse, very handy and fun to play.”
Best Playing Patron Pony was awarded to Ben Soleimani’s Machitos Eleanor (Líbano x Ferguie), a 9-year-old mare played in the sixth chukker. Purchased as a green horse, Soleimani has owned her for the last five years. “She is one of my best horses ever so thank you Mariano Aguerre and Los Machitos.”
Although disappointed the trophy slipped from their grasp, Bensoleimani.com/JCPolo’s Jemma Contreras was excited for the experience to grow and compete against fellow California Polo Club member Igor Seyrenov’s team. “This was my first opportunity to play six chukker polo,” Contreras revealed. “The tournament was fiercely competitive and fast paced and to play in the final was an achievement of its own. It’s truly exhilarating stepping onto Field 2 at Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club in front of the Sunday polo crowd. We fought until the end, but it’s never over until the final whistle.”
*Remy Muller is a member 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.