Determined to conquer BTA, responsible for their only tournament loss, Tonkawa met their opponent in the competitive final over two days at Houston Polo Club in Houston, Texas. Scheduled for Sunday, May 20, and postponed due to heavy rainfall, the final two chukkers resumed on Wednesday, May 23, resulting in Tonkawa’s narrow win 9-8.
An even first half, both teams struggled fiercely to assume the lead, matching each other goal for goal. Riddled with numerous spot hits penalties, each side was able to convert a Penalty 2, for a surprisingly low 2-all score entering the third chukker. Following a field goal by Matt Coppola*, Mason Wroe* rode him off to score a neckshot goal, earning his first point of the day and putting all BTA players on the board. Skillfully converting his second penalty, Tommy Biddle leveled the scoreboard yet again to close the gap with the stroke of his mallet, ending the half 4-all.
Making a small breakaway in the fourth, Tonkawa scored two field goals to BTA’s one. The game would be called due to rain, leaving Tonkawa with a one-goal advantage 6-5. Refreshed and ready to continue what they had started, Tonkawa returned to the field with Troy Lequerica substituting for Jeff Hildebrand. Tonkawa owned the fifth chukker, poised to claim the victory. “On Sunday we were playing really well and I think we had the momentum going for us,” Coppola said. “I was just hoping we could come out today and play with the same intensity and we did.”
Coppola started off the scoring, followed closely by Wroe who kept the game within one. Adding two consecutive goals to their tally, Tonkawa increased their lead further, ending the fifth 9-6. As the pressure increased and time ran down, BTA made some strategic moves while holding Tonkawa scoreless. However, BTA’s two goals were not enough to force an overtime chukker, ending the hard-fought final 9-8 in favor of the green machine.
Scoring three of Tonkawa’s nine goals, Tommy Biddle was named Most Valuable Player. Best Playing Pony honors were awarded to Zena, a 12-year-old Thoroughbred mare ridden by BTA’s Mason Wroe in the sixth chukker. “I purchased her in 2012 from David Crea here in Houston using money from the high-goal achievement award through Team USPA,” Wroe revealed. “She’s played in tournaments from 8- to 20-goals.” Wroe was especially happy with this achievement after Zena underwent surgery to have a plate installed fusing her left hind pastern joint. “The Texas A&M Clinic did a fantastic job and it’s safe to say she’s made a full recovery,” Wroe said happily.
*Matt Coppola and Cody Ellis are members of Team USPA. Steve Krueger and Mason Wroe 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 ©Taylor Smith/Houston Polo Club.