Let’s go to the video tape.
And that’s just what High Ground did to prepare for Sunday’s finals against Skaneateles in the Aiken Polo Club’s USPA Copper Cup 12 goal. High Ground came away with a 9-8 victory at Meadow Hill. High Ground’s team was composed of Joe Meyer, Will Tankard, Nick Snow and John Gobin. Skaneateles’ lineup was composed of Marty Cregg, Cesar Jimenez, Ulysses Escapite and Pelon Escapite.
The two teams played Friday at Meadow Hill, in a preview of Sunday’s contest, already having qualified for the finals. The match served as the perfect opportunity for both teams to get their horses ready and work on strategy. Skaneateles prevailed 9-8 in the earlier contest.
Will Tankard opened the game’s scoring, setting the tempo in the match’s first chukker that saw High Ground open up a 3-2 lead in the game’s initial period of play. Skaneateles answered back on a goal by Pelon Escapite. But goals by John Gobin from the field and a successful penalty conversion by Tankard, made it a one goal differential. Skaneateles was awarded a goal prior to the start of the game as a result of the teams’ handicap.
Skaneateles tied the game early in the second chukker, on a 40-yard penalty shot by Pelon Escapite, but High Ground played with elevated energy with goals from the field by John Gobin and Will Tankard. Escapite’s 2nd chukker horse, Madonna, was named the Best Playing Professional Pony.
High Ground found themselves the victims of circumstance as Skaneateles took advantage of a couple of fouls that had been called, with Pelon Escapite converting a pair of penalty no. 2s. However, just as the game’s momentum changed, a collision between players and horses, found Skaneateles’ Pelon Escapite suffering a tough blow, what appeared to be an injury to his right leg. But Escapite returned to the action, and the intrepid warrior didn’t show any signs of slowing down, finishing the half. High Ground found the cupboard bare during the third chukker, failing to add to their goal total.
Skaneateles missed a penalty shot early in the second half, opening the door for High Ground, whose structure, attention to detail and execution began to create some opportunities. Gobin set the offense for High Ground, and it was through his vision a scoring chance would be created, as he shed a couple of defenders en route to scoring the second half’s first goal. Gobin was a late addition to the High Ground roster, playing in place of Sayyu Dantata, who had commitments outside of the country, and the move to include Gobin on the team for the Copper Cup paid dividends.
“We studied the video tapes for hours after every game,” said Gobin, in a Most Valuable Professional Player performance.
High Ground’s ability to establish a rhythm gave them the confidence to be patient and to wait for the opportunities. However, the game never left either team with much of an opportunity to breathe. Cesar Jimenez brought Skaneateles within a goal, scoring from the field. But Skaneateles didn’t seem to have fate on their side. There was another play stoppage in the fifth chukker, as Ulysses Escapite sustained a hand injury, but he also would stay in the game. High Ground continued to put the opposition under pressure causing them to commit fouls, and Gobin would successfully convert a penalty no. 2.
Skaneateles’ realization that they would need to ramp up their intensity before the game got away from them took on added urgency entering the last period of play, and they would strike first, reducing the margin to one goal on Pelon Escapite’s fifth goal of the contest. High Ground’s John Gobin and Nick Snow scored successive goals, a testament to the group’s will to win, and in the process extending their margin. Skaneateles wasn’t ready to capitulate, and in maybe the game’s most exciting play, during the contest’s last minute, Pelon Escapite switched horses, and took the ball from one endline to the other, scoring to make it 9-8.
“We put it all together today to beat the Escapites,” said Gobin. “They’re champions. We played as a team. This is one of the best teams I’ve played on in years.”
Joe Meyer was named the Most Valuable Amateur Player, and his fourth period horse, Sweetwater, was selected as the Best Playing Amateur Pony.