By Alex Webbe
For the second time in the 2018 USPA Sportsmanship competition, Evergreen (Tom Sprung, Carlitos Galindo, Juan Jo Gonzales and Bayne Bossom) edged a talented Hanalei Bay (Krista Bonaguidi, Ashton Wolf, Taylor Freeman and Ian Schnoebelen) foursome for a 9-8 win in Sunday’s final at the Empire Polo Club.
A hearty and enthusiastic crowd saw the two teams match one another goal for goal in the opening chukker, with Hanalei Bay taking a 3-2 advantage on the strength of one goal by handicap.Krista Bonaguidi converted a 30-yard penalty shot for a goal and a 2-0 lead before Evergreen’s Juan Jo Gonzalez responded with a goal from the field to make it 2-1. Taylor Freeman converted a 40-yard penalty shot for a goal and a 3-1 lead. Evergreen’s Carlitos Galindo closed out the scoring with the final goal of the chukker to trail Hanalei Bay, 3-2.
A solid defensive effort by Hanalei Bay held Evergreen scoreless in the second period, with a goal from the field from Freeman accounting for the only score of the period. After two chukkers of play it was Hanalei Bay on top, 4-2.
Evergreen took the field in the third with renewed determination. Shutout defense was complimented with goals from Galindo (40-yard penalty conversion) and Bayne Bossom. At the end of the first half the score was all even at 4-4.
For the second consecutive chukker Evergreen managed to handcuff the Hanalei Bay offense. A 60-yard penalty conversion from Galindo was the only goal scored as Evergreen took the lead by a narrow one-goal margin, 5-4.
Bossom’s second goal of the day extended the Evergreen lead to two goals, 6-4, when Hanalei Bay came alive. Back-to-back goals from Freeman tied the score once again. With one period remaining in regulation time, the two teams were deadlocked 17 6-6.
Galindo opened the scoring in the final chukker with a 40-yard penalty goal. Teammate Gonzalez added two more from the field as Evergreen exploded for a 9-6 lead. Freeman scored on a 3-yard penalty shot and Bonaguidi added a goal from the field, but time ran out on the late rally as Evergreen held on for the 9-8 victory.
Gallindo’s four goals led the Evergreen attack, and made him tournament high scorer with 25 goals. Gonzalez scored three times and Bossom added two goals for the win. Freeman’s five goals on the day led all scoring. Bonaguida scored twice and Hanalei Bay received one goal by handicap.
Ashton Wolf was named MVP with Best Playing Pony honors going to Galindo’s Kahuna.
Polo competition will return next weekend with the start of the 4-goal USPA Circuit Players Cup and the 8-goal USPA Regional Presidents 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.