Santa Barbara Polo Club, Santa Barbara CA
(Photography by Kim Kumpart)
Lightning never strikes twice, but sometimes it strikes three times. John Muse's Lucchese polo team scored three goals in the first three minutes of the 6th chukker of the PCO final to cap an amazing comeback and win their 3rd consecutive Bombardier Pacific Coast Open Polo Team, in the most spectacular game of the season.
The first half of the PCO final, played before a capacity crowd on a flawless summer day, was a battle between calm and collected Grants Farm player Jeff Hall, who scored seven penalty goals, and the fiery play of young Santiago Torres, who kept his team in the game with some dazzling goals from the field, especially in the second chukker when he was on a blaze faced chestnut named Noruega that was loaned to him by his teammate Adolfo Cambiaso. The two teams were neck and neck throughout the first half, and a field goal by Grants Farms' Jared Sheldon gave the team in green a slim one goal lead heading into half time.
Grants Farm came out in the 4th chukker on fire, winning the throw ins and maintaining control of the ball and seeming to score at will. Hall, Pieres and Sheldon all notched up field goals, with team captain Andy Busch holding the line on defense with strong backshots. A very frustrated Lucchese team embroiled themselves in foul trouble and found themselves looking at a mountainous 6 goal deficit heading into the 5th chukker.
Then, in the 5th chukker a few key things happened. Santiago Torres got back on Noruega for the first three minutes of the chukker. The Lucchese team won the throw ins. And Adolfo Cambiaso put his Superman cape on and showed us what it means to be better than 10 goals. Torres got the comeback started with a great field goal, weaving through traffic and showing great ball control, and Adolfo kept control of the ball for most of the chukker, despite being hustled hard by Grants Farm, especially Polito Pieres who did a great job marking Adolfo all through the game and made several key saves. Lucchese team captain John Muse made some key blocks and Andres Weisz added a field goal, all of the sudden things were clicking for Lucchese. By the end of the 5th, Lucchese had clawed back within three goals, the score was 14-11, still in favor of Grants Farm but the momentum was swinging towards Lucchese.
The start of the 6th chukker was amazing polo, all eight players going to the right place, making clever plays, but for everything that Grants Farm did the other team had just a little more. Torres asked Noruega for two more minutes and the gallant mare took him to goal to start the chukker right for Lucchese. Then Adolfo made the goal of the game on a perfect slapshot from about 60 yards out, while surrounded by three players in green. The margin was down to one goal, the crowd was going crazy, and a penalty goal by Lucchese tied it up at 14 all three minutes into the 6th chukker.
Torres increased the Lucchese lead to 15-14 on yet another field goal, but Grants Farm refused to quit and Polito Pieres brought them back with a great run down to the ocean of the field. Tied at 15 all, the clock ran out and the game headed to sudden death overtime.
The crowd was on their feet for OT, everyone holding their breath and cheering for both team. The first throw in is always key and it looked like Grants Farm had possession, but on a broken play, that master of anticipation Adolfo Cambiaso jumped on the loose ball at midfield, and he was gone. Riding a lightning quick horse, chased by two Grants Farm players, the best player in the world carried the ball downfield to score the golden goal and win the Bombardier Pacific Coast Open with a final score of 16-15.
MVP of the game was Adolfo Cambiaso. BPP was Noruega, ridden by Santi Torres and owned by Adolfo Cambiaso.
The final award of the day was the Robert Skene Memorial Season MVP award. Elizabeth Skene presented this award to 18 year old Santiago Torres, who played fantastic all season and earned the respect of his fellow players and the umpires for his sportsmanship on the field. Torres grew up in Santa Barbara, his father Miguel Torres was a polo professional who passed away almost exactly five years ago from cancer. Brother Miguel Torres had earlier sent Santi a message about making their dad proud with his polo success, and somewhere up above Miguel Torres must be grinning ear to ear in pride of his son's great season and PCO championship.