Regional USPA 8-Goal Presidents Cup
Empire Polo Club – Feb. 11th, 2018
By Alex Webbe
STG (Max Menini, John Ziegler, Tommy Costello and Francisco Guinazu) snuck past a talented Lockton polo team (Tim Kelly, Bryan Middleton, Hernan Tejera and Alejandro Gonzalez) in Sunday afternoon’s final of the 2018 Regional USPA Presidents Cup play at the Empire Polo Club, but they did it in the final seconds of play.
STG spotted the seven-goal Lockton team one goal by handicap and watched Jessica Bailey and Bryan Middleton add single goals from the field. STG got two penalty goals from Max Menini but trailed 3-2 after the opening period.
Lockton kept the pressure on in the second with Bailey and Middleton (40-yard penalty shot) adding goals and Alejandro Gonzalez scoring once from the field and once on a 60-yard penalty conversion. Two goals from Francisco Guinazu and a goal from Menini kept STG in the game, but it was Lockton with the 7-5, two-goal lead.
STG’s defense stepped up in the third, holding Lockton to a single goal from the field from Middleton. Menini scored on a 40-yard penalty shot and Guinazu scored the final three goals of the chukker for a narrow 9-8 halftime edge.
Middleton and Gonzalez scored consecutive goals in the fourth to put Lockton on top, 10 to 9, but STG batted back. Menini tied it with the final goal of the chukker, 10-10.
Menini exploded for three fifth chukker goals and Guinazu scored from 40-yards out on a penalty shot. Goals from Middleton and Gonzalez kept them in the hunt, but it was STG with the two-goal lead, 14-12, going into the final chukker.
There was no letup from Lockton in the sixth. A goal from Gonzalez and two goals from Middleton moved Lockton back into the lead, but there was still time on the clock. Tommy Costello’s first goal of the game leveled the score at 15-15, and with time running out, a last ditch run at the Lockton goal had John Ziegler score the winning goal, 16-15, with time expiring.
Menini scored a game-high eight goals for STG (three on penalty shots). Guinazu racked u six goals with both Costello and Ziegler adding very important goals in the sixth chukker for the win. Middleton’s seven goals set the offensive pace for Lockton. Gonzalez added five goals; Bailey scored twice, and the team received one goal by handicap.
Costello’s horse, Estrella, was named Best Playing Pony with Gonzalez picking up MVP honors.
Competition at the 4-goal and 8-goal level will continue next week with the opening weekend of the USPA George Patton Cup.
The 2017-2018 Empire Polo season attracts players from across the country and around the world and offers fourteen weekends of fast-paced polo in the beautiful and relaxed setting of California’s winter playground.
The Empire Polo Club is located at 81-800 Avenue 51 in Indio, CA. For further information go to the club website at http://empirepolo.com or call 760-342-7755.