It was another great weekend of polo at the Santa Barbara Polo and Racquet Club with sunny skies and a large memorial weekend crowd gathered to watch the finals of the Pope Challenge. The Finals were played at 1pm in order to assure prime field conditions for the two competing teams, Antelope (with Matt Ladin replacing the injured Alvaro Tadeo) and Cotterel. Both of these teams made it into the finals with a record of 3 wins and 1 loss however Cotterel was able to beat Palm Desert/Long Beach on Friday by just enough net goals to make the finals.
From the first throw in on it was obvious that both teams brought their A game and that accompanied with near perfect field conditions made for some fast and exciting polo. Cotterel was able to jump out to a quick two goal lead in the first chukker thanks to a safety conversion by Ruben Coscia just before the warning bell. However in the second chukker Antelope was able to battle back with two penalty goals off the mallet of Geoff Palmer but then they let their guard down at the end of the chukker and Cotterel was able to recapture the lead. In the third chukker it looked like Antelope had regained momentum and was going to take a 1 goal lead in to the halftime break but then Cotterel was able to pull off their end of the chukker magic and turn a sure goal for Antelope into a goal for them on a great run by Luis Saracco.
After half time Cotterel was able to surge out to a two goal lead which they were able to hold on to for the entire chukker. Then in the 5th chukker it looked as if the game was all but over with Cotterel jumping out to a four goal lead. In the waning moments of the 5th chukker Antelopeâ€™s Jessie Bray did his best Cotterel impression scoring after the 30 second horn had sounded to pull Antelope within 3 goals. Early in the 6th chukker Cotterel regained the 3 goal lead with under 5 minutes to play. However, Antelope had other plans, and after two quick goals from Matt Ladin and Santi Trotz, Geoff Palmer hit a clutch Penalty Two with a minute and change left to tie it at 10. Cotterel quickly attacked the Antelope goal, but that wily veteran positioned himself Santi Trotz perfectly for a pass from Jessie Bray that he ran all the way down the field to score the winning goal on a spectacular 80 yard shot. It was the perfect ending to a very exciting game.
Antelopeâ€™s Jessie Bray was named MVP and his horse Magica was named best playing pony.
For the 3pm exhibition game, Mansour/Hanalei Bay mixed teams with Farmers and Merchants Bank. This swapping of teams led to a very fun and open game that ended in a 6 to 6 tie. All and all it was a great memorial day weekend at SBPRC and if you missed it make sure you come out next week to see some exciting 12 goal action.