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Palm Beach Equine downs Team USPA, 9-8

By Alex Webbe

A veteran Palm Beach Equine polo team (Gene Goldstein, Jeff Blake, Kris Kampsen and Scott Swerdlin) managed to hold took an early lead over Team USPA (Jared Sheldon, Jesse Bray, Felipe Viana, Patrick Uretz and Will Tankard) Friday afternoon and never trailed as they registered a 9-8 win to qualify for the final of the 2014 Palm Restaurant Invitational at the Grand Champions Polo Club in Wellington.

“They were about a third of our age,” smiled Palm Beach Equine team captain Scott Swerdlin after the match, “but they have a lot of talent.”

Palm Beach Equine received one goal by handicap from the 14-goal Team USPA, and was the first to score. Kris Kampsen made it 2-0 at the 4:46 mark but Team USPA stormed right back. Consecutive goals from Jesse Bray tied it up at two goals apiece to end the opening chukker.

Penalties in the second period would come back to haunt Team USPA, with Kampsen converting two of them for goals and Jeff Blake scoring a goal from the field. Patrick Uretz scored Team USPA’s only goal of the chukker on a well-executed neck shot. At the end of the second chukker Palm Beach Equine was enjoying a 5-3 advantage over Team USPA.

Missed scoring opportunities by Team USPA kept their scoring to a minimum, with
Bray scoring his third goal of the day. Kampsen responded with another penalty conversion and Palm Beach Equine maintained their two goal lead, 6-4, at the end of the first half.

Bray opened the second half by scoring a goal in the opening seconds of play. A streaking Bray found himself on the scoring end of a pass from teammate Felipe Viana, cutting the Palm Beach Equine lead to a single goal, 6-5. A minute later Kampsen scored from the field to make it 7-5. Viana put an exclamation on the final scoring shot of the chukker as he drilled the ball through the goalposts from over 100 yards out. The Palm Beach Equine lead had been trimmed to a single goal, 7-6.

Palm Beach Equine was awarded a Penalty 1 as the fifth chukker got underway, 8-6, and another Team USPA foul sent Kampsen to the penalty line where he converted the short shot for a 9-6 lead for the final goal of the period.

Team USPA continued to press the attack and Viana spearheaded the final assault. Viana scored twice in the final chukker of play, and the defense held but it wasn’t enough. The final horn sounded with Palm Beach Equine on the winning end of the 9-8 score.

Kampsen led all scoring with six goals. Blake scored once; the team was awarded a goal on a Penalty 1; and Palm Beach Equine received one goal by handicap for the win. Bray led the Team USPA attack with four goals. Viana scored three times and Uretz added a goal in the loss.

Team USPA coach, former 7-goaler Joel Baker, was on hand for the match and thought that the players showed a great deal of promise.

“I’m here to observe and assess the abilities of the players and try to find the best combination of players,” he said.

Team USPA has been working out with six players (Jesse Bray, Jared Sheldon, Patrick Uretz, Mason Wroe, Felipe Viana and Will Tankard), alternating throughout the last couple of weeks as they grow to know one another before departing for Zone competition in the Dominican Republic in December.

“We really didn’t play well as a team today,” said California 4-goaler Jesse Bray. “I think that we played too much as individuals today,” he added. “Everyone’s trying to show off their talents as individuals, not concentrating on the team as a whole. I’m confident that we’ll settle down and get it together.”

The FIP North America Zone A Playoff for the United States team is being held at the Casa de Campo resort in the Dominican Republic, December 6-14.