California Polo Club wins US Arena Championship

California Polo Club wins US Arena Championship

Alex Webbe

For the third consecutive year the finals of the 2011
United States Arena Championship at the California Polo Club in Los Angeles featured
teams led by 7-goaler Billy Sheldon and 6-goaler Domingo Questel.  This year, however, it was the father-son
combination of Domingo and Manny Questel who took home the silver for the
California Polo Club on the strength of a nail-biting 11-10 contest that was in
question until the final seconds of the last chukker.

This year it was neither Billy Sheldon nor Domingo Questel
that put up the big numbers as Manny Questal scored nine times in the
championship event.

California Polo Club struck first with a goal from Manny
Questel, but Thomson-Reuters answered with a pair of goals from Manny
Rodriguez.  Manny Questel closed out the
first chukker scoring with his second goal on the day for a 2-2 tie.

“It was an incredibly physical game,” said actor Grainger
Hines, who was part of a standing only crowd that included USPA Circuit
Governor Denny Geiler, producer Michael Butler and actress Stephanie

“There was nothing dirty about the play,” said Hines, a
veteran player himself, “but it was very physical.”

Thomson-Reuters regrouped and took control of the second
chukker, scoring three consecutive goals (two from Billy Sheldon and one from
Rodriguez) for a 5-2 lead.  The
California Polo Club bounced back with three straight goals of their own as
Manny Questel evened the score at 5-5 to end the first half.

 â€œThe strategy we
went into the game with was to take out their best player,” said Domingo Questel.  “Although Ashton (Wolf) lined up at the
Number 1 position, his sole job was to cover Billy (Sheldon),” he added.

The California Polo Club opened the second half with
goals from Manny Questel and Wolf for a 7-5 advantage before Thomson-Reuters
responded.  A goal from Rodriguez and a
penalty goal knotted it up again at 7-7, but California Polo Club’s Manny
Questel scored the go-ahead goal to end the chukker leading Thomson-Reuters by
a narrow 8-7 edge.

“There wasn’t an uncontested shot taken in the whole
game,” said Billy Sheldon.  “Any time
someone looked like they were going to break loose, an opposing player appeared
right alongside of them.”

Cary Burch’s first goal of the game for Thomson-Reuters
leveled the score at 8-8 for the fifth tie of the game in the early going of
the final period of the game, but scores from Wolf and Manny Questel gave the
California Polo Club a two goal, 10-8 lead. 
Burch cut the lead to a single goal, 10-9, with his second goal of the
chukker, and another goal from Sheldon had it deadlocked at 10-10 with less
than two minutes left to play. 

Sheldon’s third goal of the game had the score at 10-10
with time running out.  A penalty against
Thomson-Reuters put Manny Questel at the line. 

“I hit the ball to the right on the penalty shot and then
buried it into the goal from midfield,” said Manny Questel.

Initially scored as a two-point shot, Referee Vicky Owens
overruled the call, leaving the California Polo Club in front by a single goal
with 1:20 left in regulation time.

“It was the longest 80 seconds of my life,” said Manny
Questel after the match, and well it should have been.  With less than ten seconds on the clock
Sheldon broke loose toward the California Polo Club goal only to be thwarted by
a heady defensive effort from Wolf.  Time
expired with the California Polo Club celebrating the 11-10 victory.

Manny Questel received MVP honors for his explosive
offensive impact on the game while Albert,
owned by Poway Interscholastic Polo and played by Billy Sheldon was honored as Best Playing Pony.

USPA Governor-at-Large, Russ Sheldon (father of Billy
Sheldon) raved about the organization and production of the tournament by the
California Polo Club.

“I’ve been to a lot of different polo clubs in my life
and I will have to say that the efforts and presentation made by the California
Polo Club should be heralded by the United States Polo Association as a model
for other clubs to strive for.”


In earlier action the Gladiators team of David Oles,
Kerstie Allen and Ernie Darquea scored a one-sided 14-8 win over the struggling
Urban Dog trio of Kim Garsed, Megan Judge and Gabby Questel.

The Gladiators charged out into the arena and put up
seven unanswered goals in the opening chukker, sending a shell-shocked Urban
Dog team out of the arena after the first chukker in a 7-0 hole.

Urban dog managed a couple of goals in the second chukker
but trailed 12-2 at the end of the first half as the Gladiators ran all over

It was 14-6 after three chukkers with Darquea scoring at
will for the Gladiators.   Urban Dog
managed two more goals in the final period while Darquea scored his thirteenth
and fourteenth goals of the match.  Oles
chipped in his second score as the Gladiators rode off with the 14-8 win.

To no one’s surprise, Darquea was named MVP while Megan
Judge’s Cartagena received Best
Playing Pony Honors.