Team USPA wins National Twenty Goal opener in OT
By Alex Webbe
A heroic performance was put in by Team USPA’s (Jared Sheldon, Patrick Uretz, Felipe Viana, Jeff Blake and Jesse Bray) Felipe Viana who scored the winning goal in overtime as they downed a veteran Palm Beach Polo foursome (Glenn Straub, Guille Aguero, Jeff Hall and Brandon Phillips) in the opening game of the 2014 USPA National Twenty Goal Championship Thursday morning at the Grand Champions Polo Club in Wellington “It was strictly a team win,” said Viana after the match. We got a lot of help and direction from Jeff Blake and really played well as a team,” he said. “It’s a lot different playing at the 20-goal level than at 14-goals,” he added, “but I think we played pretty well.”
Team USPA received one goal by handicap and added another on a goal from the field from Patrick Uretz for a 2-0 start. Palm Beach Polo responded with a penalty goal from 7-goaler Jeff Hall and a goal from the field from teammate Guille Aguero to tie it at 2-2.
Brandon Phillips put Palm Beach Polo in the lead with a pair of goals in the second chukker, scoring once from the field and adding a second goal on a penalty shot, 4-2. Team USPA fought back with Viana scoring the final goal of the chukker. Palm Beach Polo left the field on top of a 4-3 score.
Team USPA rallied in the third combining shutout defense with goals from 6-goaler Jeff Blake and Jesse Bray. Blake tied it at 4-4 and Bray’s goal ended the first half with Team USPA ahead by a goal, 5-4.
Palm Beach Polo pressed on in the fourth. Hall opened the scoring with a goal from the field, 5-5, with Viana answering back with his second goal of the match to give the lead back to Team USPA, 6-5. Hall scored the final goal of the period to deadlock the game at six goals apiece.
The pace of the game continued to escalate with a Team USPA foul sending Phillips to the penalty line where he converted the shot for a goal, 7-6. Bray tied it up with a goal from the field as the two teams rode off at the end of the chukker all even again at 7-7.
“They (Team USPA) played hard,” said Hall. “They seem to be all over the field. Every time you were on the ball you’ve got one of them crashing into you,” he said. “They played well.”
Sixth chukker action had Phillips scoring on another penalty shot for Palm Beach Polo for an 8-7 edge, but Viana spoiled the victory celebration with his third goal on the day, tying it at 8-8. Team USPA had an opportunity to end the game on a 60-yard penalty shot with seconds on the clock, but the ball was defended out of bounds by a Palm Beach Polo player. The defensive deflection resulted in a Penalty 6. Viana lined up for his second 60-yard penalty shot of the chukker only to have it blocked again with time expiring, forcing a sudden-death overtime.
In the opening seconds of overtime, and the ball dead at the Palm Beach Polo end of the field, the two teams lined up about ten yards from the goal. The throw-in careened off of a horse’s leg in the direction of the Team USPA players. An off-side backhander by Viana carried through the goal posts for the winning goal, 9-8.
“We had our chances,” said Palm Beach Polo 5-goaler Brandon Phillips. “We missed a number of scoring opportunities.”
Viana led the Team USPA attack with four goals. Bray scored twice with Blake and Uretz adding single goals. The team also received one goal by handicap. Phillips scored four times (two on penalty conversions) for Palm Beach Polo. Hall was credited with three goals (one on a penalty shot) and Aguero scored once in the loss.
Play continues in the USPA National Twenty Goal Championship at the Grand Champions Polo Club on Friday afternoon with semifinal play as Flight Options (Melissa Ganzi, Kris Kampsen, Nic Roldan and Juan Bollini) faces Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, Julio Gracida, Piki Alberdi and Roberto Gonzalez). At 3PM, Audi (Marc Ganzi, Carlitos Gracida, Julio Arellano and Mason Wroe) will meet Team USPA. The tournament final is scheduled to be played at 3PM on Sunday, November 23rd.