Wellington, FL- April 2, 2013- Tackeria, led by the all-around play of Matt Coppola, defeated Far Niente, 4-3, to win the inaugural USPA National Youth Polo Region 4 Tournament Series opener Tuesday at Everglades Polo Club.
With pinpoint passing from 16-year-old Juancito Bollini, the 18-year-old Coppola scored all four of his team’s goals in the four-chukker championship in front of a packed field of spectators.
Tackeria, which advanced into the championship with a 10-6 win over Escue on Monday, came from behind for the victory.
Down 2-1 in the opening chukker, Coppola scored two goals in the third chukker for a 3-2 lead. Bollini hit a huge nearside back shot from midfield to set up Coppola’s third goal with three minutes left in the chukker.
Tackeria took a 4-2 lead with another nice Bollini pass to Coppola to join teammates Lorenzo Merlotti and Lauren Biddle, the only girl player in the game, at the awards ceremony.
Coppola and Bollini were named to the six-player Zone 4 All-Star team along with Wesley Finlayson, Gonzalo Di Cuircio and Agustin Arellano of Far Niente and Geronimo Obregon of Escue.
Coppola’s new 7-year-old horse Prada he just got last week was named Best Playing Pony.
In the Division II flight, Polo School at Grand Champions edged Grand Champions, 6-5, in the two-day round robin.
Christian Weisz of the Polo School at Grand Champions led scoring with four goals including the tying goal (5-5) with 4:04 left in the game. Teammate Hank Watson scored the winning goal in the last two minutes of the game.
Named to the Division II five-player Zone 4 All-Star team were Justin Daniels of Grand Champions, Lucas Arellano and Nico Escobar of Pony Express, Christian Weisz and Clemente Devriente of Polo School at Grand Champions.
Arellano’s pony, Cicatriz, owned by his younger sister Hope, was named Best Playing Pony.
For Coppola, the first-of-its-kind NYTS tournament was bittersweet since it was his first and last. He will be too old to compete next year. Coppola won five of the six tournaments he competed in this season.
“I have been playing in the kids tournaments all my life,” Coppola said. “It was good to win the last one. The skill level of these players is unbelievable. We have a lot of good up-and-coming players.
“The game was really fast, really, really fast and it was fun.”
When he saw the Tackeria team on paper, Coppola thought they had a good chance to win.
“The other team we played against was really good, but we had a good team,” Coppola said. “I was excited about our team. It’s good to have three good players you can count on and go out there and not have to worry.
“We went out there strong. We all went to our man and played man-to-man defense. It was a tough game and fun. Juancito took in the set plays and he was putting them up there to me.”
International Polo Club is one of eleven polo clubs nationwide that are hosting a NYTS tournament to help promote the growth of youth polo.
“We are happy to be associated with the new USPA NYTS program,” said IPC director of polo operations Jimmy Newman. “The NYTS program like these other programs provides yet another chance for young players to gain experience and perfect their polo skills.
“Both Everglades and Jan Pamela Polo Clubs, whose facilities IPC schedules polo games at, have been very helpful in our efforts to support youth polo,” Newman said.
For the NYTS series, thirteen USPA circuits are divided into six geographical zones. Each zone has a Zone All-Star Selection Committee that chooses at least four players and two alternates to represent their zone in the NYTS National Championship, scheduled this year for Labor Day Weekend at Virginia International Polo Club. The national tournament site will rotate annually.
Wellington and southeast region were combined into Zone 4.
NYTS junior players are USPA members, have a USPA handicap and do not exceed their 19th birthday on January 1 of the calendar year. There are approximately 800 registered USPA junior members, ages 19-and-under.
The program highlights players on four different areas: horsemanship, sportsmanship, playing ability and how they contribute as a team player.
“As a part of the USPA and Junior Polo Committee, I am thrilled to see the inaugural NYTS tournament take place at the center of polo in the United States,” said Chrys Beal, chairman of the USPA’s Junior Polo Committee and volunteer leadership behind NYTS.
“We are proud of all the participants and thankful to the IPC, Haley Bryan, and many others who contributed to making this a success,” Beal said. “This event is the first but not the last of its kind. We are looking forward to junior polo players all across the country playing in NYTS tournaments this summer and Zone All-Stars meeting in a National Final in early September at Virginia International Polo Center.”
Trophies, All-Star medals and participation medals were awarded. Tournament results will be published in the annual Blue Book.