The money wasn’t on Tackeria defeating the mighty Coca-Cola, but that they did, winning the 2018 Herbie Pennell Cup on New Year’s Eve at the International Polo Club Palm Beach (IPC). Not bad for a new team of young players who only had two practices before the game.
Tackeria’s Matt Coppola put in a stunning performance and swept the awards. Game high-scorer with 6 goals, he was named MVP. Lavinia Ventaja, his second-chukker pony, was selected as Best-Playing Pony. The 9-year-old 15.1-hand chestnut mare was sired by Ellerstina Picaro and is out of Favorita. Coppola bought her two years ago. “She has a great personality in the barn,” he said. “All the grooms love her. She’s chill, and on the field she has so much heart.”
Coppola attributed his team’s success to a combination of factors: coming in with a very good game plan and sticking to it; having four strong players instead of one main player; always looking for the open man; frequently passing the ball and getting it up front to him and Finlayson (both are 23 years old and members of Team USPA).
“Everyone knew their job,” said Coppola. “Wes has a great eye and is a great teammate; Jason [Crowder] is an animal on the field and has a lot of heart. Pelon [Escapite] was our captain and mentor. He kept everyone under control.”
Tackeria established themselves early on, ahead 5-0 at the end of the first chukker. They hung onto a 4-to-5-goal lead, ending the first half with a 7-2 advantage. Then Coca-Cola suddenly morphed into their old selves, which spells trouble for any team. From the fourth chukker until the final bell, the score was either tied or separated by a single goal. Tackeria ended each of the second-half chukkers one goal to the good, taking the title 12-11.
All eight players on the field scored at least one goal. Coca-Cola’s final goal came out of a crazy scramble that was extremely entertaining—if you weren’t part of it. Julio Arellano sent the ball on a long drive, and it landed a few yards in front of the goal line. Within seconds just about everyone jumped into the mix. The ball ricocheted between the teams several times, and most of the time you couldn’t tell who had it. Finally Sugar Erskine pounced on the ball and scored the last goal of the game.
Yesterday was Erskine’s first high-goal game with Coca-Cola since his injury in Houston 14 months ago. As he likes to do, he was sporting Coca-Cola red on his boots and several other places. When he took off his helmet the back of his head showed “Coke” shaved into his hair.
Sunday’s match rang in the start of the high-goal season at IPC. The next 20-goal tournament, the Joe Barry Cup, starts this Thursday, January 4, with three games at IPC: Travieso v. SD Farms (10 a.m.), Grand Champions Polo Club v. La Indiana (12:30 p.m.), and Coca-Cola v. Tonkawa (3 p.m.).
Photos Copyright Liz Lamont Images/PoloChannel