Wellington, FL – January 3, 2015 – On December 30, spectators lined both sides of the field at International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington, Florida. Four teams of young players between the ages of 16-21, battled for the coveted Tackeria Cup. Clean, classic polo charged with the energy that teenagers possess, made for an afternoon of exciting polo.
The Tackeria Cup is the first tournament in the Polo Training Foundation’s Young Player Series. In 2012, the Polo Training Foundation began this program, with the support of Jimmy Newman and the International Polo Club Palm Beach. The program is designed for the graduates of the Junior Program who age out at 16, to continue to play with and amongst their peers.
In 2012, Santi Torres, goaler Wesley Bryan, A-rated Mary and Matt Collins won the first annual Tackeria Cup at Bellissimo Field. In 2013, Matt Coppola, Caroline Hardie, Lorenzo
Merlotti and Trevor Niznik won the second annual Tackeria Cup at International Polo Club.
The draw for the 2014 Tackeria Cup resulted in the Casablanca Team, comprised of A.5-rated Benjamin Avendano, A.5-rated Santiago Avendano, 1.5 goaler Lorenzo Merlotti and 2-goaler Matias Gonzalez against the Tackeria Team of Brazil rated -1Guilherme Maia, S (student)-rated JP Vasquez, A.5-rated Alejandro Gonzalez and 4-goaler Matthew Coppola in the first two-chukker game.
Long- time teammates, Coppola and Gonzalez, came out running and were quick to get two field goals on the board; first by Gonzalez and second by 16-year-old Vasquez. The Casablanca team fought back but could not sneak by Coppola, ending the first chukker at 2-0.
In the second chukker, the teams galloped back and forth until Coppola put put a third goal on the scoreboard. Towards the end of the chukker, Casablanca finally scored with a field goal by Avendano, but Tackeria held the lead and advanced to the final with a first round score of 3-1.
The second qualifying game matched GJ Racing (A.5-rated Liam Lott, Pakistan-rated 3-goaler Isfandyar Pataudi, 2-goaler Kegan Walsh and 1.5
-rated Wesley Bryan) against World Polo News (WPN)/Escue (0-goaler Jose Meirelles, Jr., A-rated Ayaan Quraeshi, A.5-rated Sloan Stefanakis and 3-goaler Wesley Finlayson).
Both teams battled back and forth trying to find a balance with their teammates. Finlayson’s conversion of a penalty 3 early in the chukker gave WPN/Escue a one-goal lead held until the end of the first chukker.
The second chukker WPN/Escue owned the field as Finlayson came back on the field with an organized team, making use of all players. The GJ Racing team fought to get a score on the board, but with Finlayson at back continuously shutting down any attempts at goal and clearing the ball to his teammates, WPN/Escue put 3 goals on the scoreboard, one by each Meirelles, Quraeshi and Stefanakis), while the GJ Racing team were left scoreless against the well-organized WPN/Escue team. At the end of the second chukker, up by 4 goals, WPN/Escue earned their ticket to the final against Tackeria.
The two consolation finalists took the field to determine third and fourth place. The Casablanca team appeared to be playing with a new strategy with the Avendano brothers defending and blocking so Merlotti could hit up to Gonzalez on run to goal. This approach resulted in an early goal for Casablanca to open the game 1-0. JG Racing were picked up on the new Casablanca play and Bryan began covering Gonzalez man-to-man, preventing Gonzalez from breaking away.
The second Chukker was back-to-back runs by both teams, neither side with a score, finishing with Casablanca 1-0.
The two finalist teams lined up for the final two chukkers of the day to determine the winner of the 2014 Tackeria Cup. The WPN/Escue team found their rhythm in the final chukker of their first game and were in top form with Meirelles scoring two goals to put them on top 2-0. A determined Tackeria team fought back with a strong offense and was rewarded towards the end of the first chukker with a goal by Coppola to bring the score to 2-1. Finlayson led his team covering man-to-man in the second and final chukker in an attempt to hold off the strong offense of the Tackeria Team.
Finally, with less than a minute on the clock, Vasquez and Gonzalez made a hole in the WPN/Escue defense, enabling Coppola to take off on a breakaway to score a goal, bringing the score to a tie 2-2.
With seconds before the 30-second horn, umpires Biddle and Onetto threw the ball in. The players scrambled, and WPN/Escue travelled with the ball straight to goal, but it was wide. At the end of regulation play, the score was tied 2-2.
The teams played a three-minute, rainbow-rule overtime chukker. If the tie wasn’t broken after the three minutes, they would proceed to a shoot-out.
In the rainbow rule, the ball is thrown in at midfield and the first team to hit the ball over their end line wins.
It’s often said that winning throw-ins will win you the game, and this is even more so with a rainbow rule overtime chukker. Umpires Biddle and Onetto lined up the eight players and threw the ball. Stefanakis, the 16-year-old from Texas, got control of the ball and ran flat out towards the corner near the end line, distancing himself from the opposing players. Coppola and Gonzalez were close behind but could not stop Stefanakis as he made one last hit, sealing the victory for his WPN/Escue as the 2014 Tackeria Cup Champions.
Rated at 0 goals and tying for top scorer of the day, Meirelles was named the Most Valuable Player. Finlayson received the Sportsmanship award. The Best Playing Pony award went to Coppola’s Mimosa, played in the final chukker of the day.
About The Tackeria
Founded by Tony Coppola in 1975, The Tackeria is the go-to source for equipment, supplies, fashion and gifts for the hunter/jumper, dressage and polo disciplines. It is located in Wellington, Florida, the apex of all things equestrian during the winter season.
With one of the most complete selections of equestrian equipment in the world, The Tackeria buyers find the best products made in the U.S. and import goods from all over Europe, the Far East and South America to create the best selection of quality items for customers. In addition, The Tackeria provides a wide range of services including in-house tack repair, engraving and embroidery as well as stall mat and kick pad installation.