Emerging undefeated through bracket play, Postage Stamp Farm (PSF) rose to the top of the leaderboard, Monterosso the only team standing between them and the Perry Trophy. Competing for the East Coast Open Final on Sunday, September 8, at Greenwich Polo Club in Greenwich, Connecticut, both teams fought with sustained intensity to keep the score within two goals. Edging out their opponents after a strong second half, PSF ended the tournament 12-10, redeeming their 2018 semifinal defeat.
“This is one of my biggest tournament wins yet and especially doing it with Annabelle Gundlach. I started five years ago giving her lessons to now winning the East Coast Open on her team. We’ve put in a lot of work over the last few years to build the organization to where it’s at and to be able to win with her means a lot.” – Brandon Phillips
Kicking off the final with three consecutive Penalty 2 conversions, Brandon Phillips’ accuracy quickly eliminated Monterosso’s one-goal handicap advantage. Trading goals throughout the first chukker, both teams were eager to set the pace early with PSF leading 4-3. Working together to shut down PSF’s system, Monterosso successfully prevented their opponents from scoring in the second. Approaching halftime, penalty shots proved to be crucial to both teams. Adding back-to-back conversions to the tally, Ignacio “Cubi” Toccalino moved Monterosso into the lead for the first time, ending the third 6-5.
Returning to the field in the fourth with a clear objective, Postage Stamp implemented an effective offensive attack, allowing them to regain and keep their lead until the end. Countering the opening penalty conversion from Toccalino, PSF fired back with three consecutive goals, two off the mallet of Lerin Zubiaurre. Scoring the only Monterosso goal in the fifth, Alessandro Bazzoni’s effort to equalize the scoreboard would be short-lived as Tomas Garcia del Rio added two more to end the chukker 10-8 in favor of PSF. In the final chukker, Garcia del Rio widened the gap with his fifth goal of the game putting added pressure on Monterosso who secured another set of two from Toccalino to keep it close. Down by one 11-10 Monterosso was in position to steal the win, but PSF’s Zubiaurre gained control of a loose ball which players overrode. Seizing the opportunity to carry the ball forward, Zubiaurre smacked it out of the air and over the backline. Conceding victory in the final moments of play, Monterosso fell to the undefeated team 12-10.
“All five teams were very strong and I think this was one of the most competitive East Coast Open seasons we’ve played,” Phillips said. “The new teams brought many top players like Bartolome Castagnola, Nachi Du Plessis and Cubi Toccalino to the area for the first time. We [Postage Stamp Farm] knew we needed a lot of luck and to play every game well in order to win. So, to be able to beat those guys makes this win even better.”
Playing with the same team in 2018, Gundlach expressed the significance of this win and her team’s perseverance. “It’s wonderful to come back this year and go all the way! The final was a battle from start to finish, but in the end our game plan reigned supreme. I’m honored to even be on the field with them, and we are all thrilled to have our names engraved in polo history on a storied trophy!”
Most Valuable Player was awarded to Monterosso’s Santino Magrini. “He was the workhorse for Monterosso and was really good at taking out Tomas Garcia del Rio and Lerin Zubiaurre,” said USPA Executive Director of Services Carlucho Arellano. “He played selflessly, taking the man and making opportunities for the rest of his team and it showed because they made it a really close game.”
Best Playing Pony honors were presented to Los Machitos Ikana, a mare played by Lerin Zubiaurre in a few minutes of the second, three minutes in the fifth and one minute in the sixth chukker. “I bought her from Los Machitos last year in Florida, but this is the first year I played her at Greenwich Polo Club,” Zubiaurre said. “She arrived last year from Argentina and played a bit in Greenwich, but this is her first big season.”
Preparing for five months to compete in the East Coast Open, Postage Stamp Farm’s investment into their equine athletes was a contributing factor to their success. “We organized well to bring the best horses here and saved horses all summer specifically for this tournament,” Phillips revealed. “It’s nice to see that the time and effort we’ve put into this since March paid off.”
All photos courtesy ©Andes Visual/Greenwich Polo Club.