For a second consecutive year, the USPA Polo Development, LLC Junior Committee hosted the USPA Junior Open Final to showcase talented youth polo players. The two teams, Wind Swept (Harrison Reicher, Rufino Merlos, Poroto Cambiaso, Santos Merlos) and Dutta Corp/Show+ (Leon Schwencke, Nico Diaz Alberdi*, Ignacio Arbelbide, Timmy Dutta*), took the field to demonstrate their skills, passion and ability in a five chukker test match. Largely a battle from the penalty line, five conversions coupled with three field goals from 9-goaler Cambiaso paved the way for Wind Swept’s success. Dutta Corp/Show+ kept pace with their opponent the majority of the game, but Wind Swept ultimately pulled away in the final chukker to secure the 10-7 victory.
Discussing his role in Wind Swept’s strategy, Reicher shared, “Our main strategy was for me to take the hitter in the back, so when we stole the ball, I was already in position to turn quickly and receive Poroto’s long pass. This strategy worked well because I was not only taking out [a] player on their team, Timmy Dutta, but I was also in the perfect position to receive a pass.”
Rufino Merlos continued, “Our team strategy was [also] to play simple, try to hit the ball as much as we can and be tough with the man so they couldn’t score easily on us.” Cambiaso added, “We also had Tincho [Merlos] and my dad [Adolfo Cambiaso] helping us from the outside if they saw things during the game.”
Wind Swept worked quickly at the outset of play, with a Penalty 2 and field goal off the mallet of Cambiaso in the first chukker. Building on that momentum, the team in red found the goal twice more in the first half, with another field goal from Cambiaso and a successful Penalty 2 from Rufino Merlos. In response to Wind Swept’s early lead, Dutta Corp/Show+ ramped up their offensive front, with a goal from Dutta and two from Schwencke bringing the team within one goal of Wind Swept before the half, 3-4.
As the second half began, Cambiaso initiated an unstoppable force beneath Wind Swept’s sails. Scoring three times from the penalty line and once from the field, Cambiaso worked diligently to create a larger deficit between Wind Swept and their opponent. Rufino Merlos also found his way to goal in the fourth chukker. Two penalty conversions from Schwencke and two field goals from Arbelbide kept Dutta Corp/Show+ in contention, but their efforts were not enough to catch Wind Swept. As the final horn sounded, Wind Swept emerged victorious, 10-7.
For his 8-goal performance, Poroto Cambiaso was recognized as the Most Valuable Player. His first and last chukker horse, La Dolfina Cauta, was awarded Best Playing Pony honors. He explained, “La Dolfina Cauta is the daughter of La Dolfina Cautiva and Open Chimento. She is a mare from our breed that came this year and she is new. She is 7 years old. I put her in the game a little bit at the beginning and then I finished the game on her.”
Pleased with his team’s performance and his experience playing in the USPA Junior Open, Rufino Merlos reflected, “It worked very well that we all did what we were supposed to do, and we worked hard. I really liked the team that I played with. Poroto, Santos and Harrison are great players and they helped me to play better.”
A wonderful display of talent and dedication in youth polo, the event was a great success and will hopefully return for its third installation in 2024.
*Nico Diaz Alberdi and Timmy Dutta are Active Team USPA Members. Team USPA is a USPA program designed to enhance and grow the sport of polo in the United States by identifying young, talented American players and providing mentored training and playing opportunities leading to a pool of higher rated amateur and pro players and the resultant giveback to the sport of polo.
All photos courtesy of ©David Lominska.