|Tue 5th Sep 2017|
National Youth Tournament Series Championship
Reigning champions take home the Cecil Smith Cup
Five months of qualifying tournaments across the USA concluded on Sunday 3 September, in the National Youth Tournament Series (NYTS) Championship Final. Twenty-four youth polo players from all over the USA travelled to Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club in Carpinteria, California, for one intensive weekend of polo and the chance to have their name engraved on the Cecil Smith Cup. Established in 2013, NYTS is the first national outdoor tournament series for youth competitors, providing opportunities for young under-19 players to compete against their peers. After two close Semi Final matches on Friday 1 September, defending champions Zone 3 (Florida Circuit) in blue and Zone 4 (Eastern and North Eastern Circuit) in green, secured their positions in the Final.
Zone 3 controlled the game from the very first throw-in, swiftly making up the 1½ goal that deficit Zone 4 gained due to handicap. A goal from Liam Lott after an exceptional play downfield with a bouncing ball from end to end, sustained Zone 4’s narrow lead 2½-2 at the end of the chukka. An unstoppable Zone 3 shut out their opponents in the second chukka, every member contributing a goal to the total tally by the end of the first half. Nico Escobar commenced Zone 4’s scoring streak with an undefended penalty conversion, which only fuelled Zone 3’s fire, unleashing a series of excellently executed team plays. On two occasions, passes from teammates found Zone 3 players undefended and both Justin Daniels and Lucas Escobar calmly played the ball to goal. Zone 4 just couldn’t keep up. A penalty flew high and wide as Lucas Escobar sunk yet another between the posts to widen Zone 3’s lead to a commanding 6-2½ at half-time.
A determined Zone 4 rode onto the field for the third chukka, scoring within the first minute. They continued their comeback, capitalising on two penalty conversions, to bring them within a half goal 6-5½. By the end of the third, Zone 3’s exemplary team play once again took centre stage. Mackenzie Weisz finished the chukka with a neck-shot goal off a long midfield pass from Nico Escobar to move into the fourth and final chukka with a three and a half goal lead 8-5½. Zone 4 suffered a costly mistake a minute into the fourth when horse trouble caused an override of a knock-in that resulted in a throw-in perpendicular to the end line. Zone 3 took advantage with Nico Escobar scoring immediately out of the line-up. He then went on to single-handedly score all goals in the last chukka. Wells would manage one more goal for Zone 4 before the end of the match, but a closing goal from Nico Escobar cemented Zone 3’s repeat victory 11-6½.
The Matthew Cohen Most Valuable Player Award was presented to Lucas Escobar whilst the Best Playing Pony Award was presented to Napa, played by Zone 3’s Mackenzie Weisz and owned by Leigh Breechan.
Photograph: Zone 3 win the National Youth Tournament Series Championship Final in California. By ©Elizabeth Hedley
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