There's a noticeable difference in Dr. Grayson Brown's game from this spring, and Wednesday afternoon Brown's play was a key variable in Casa Azul's 7.5 to 7 victory over Polo Skilz in the Aiken Polo Club's USPA Governors Cup 6-goal at Whitney Field. The two evenly matched teams kept each other in check throughout most of the contest. An emphasis on stout defense helped to derail a number of opportunities.
"It was a big difference," said Brown. "I played this past May (after a severe leg injury the previous polo season), and basically I was riding out there. I didn't feel comfortable leading to hit a shot. But, over the summer, I got a lot of my muscle mass built back up and feeling in my leg. I'm about back to normal. I'm back at it now, but I have a way to go."
Casa Azul's Matt Sekera would open the scoring, and the momentum seemed to shift in their favor as Tod Martineau would score three of his 4 goals in the first half, and all 4 came on successful penalty conversions. Caza Azul held a 3-1 advantage after the 1st chukker.
Polo Skilz was able to break through on a goal by Campbell Davis from the field. However, it was Polo Skilz determined approach in the 2nd chukker that enabled them to draw even at the half. Davis picked up his 2nd goal from the field to reduce the deficit to 1 goal. Polo Skilz kept the momentum going as Geoff Cameron tied the score at 3-3. Casa Azul remained focused and refused to let Polo Skilz offensive outburst determine the outcome of the game. Martineau's precision with the mallet allowed him to pick up his 3rd goal of the first half as he successfully converted a 30-yard penalty shot. Polo Skilz continued to create offensive opportunities despite their opponents attempt to thwart their ability to generate scoring chances. All four Polo Skilz team members appeared to be well mounted allowing them to quickly turn and get to balls. Tom Uskup tied the game with a goal from the field late in the chukker. Casa Azul's Brown was strong on defense joining the play, effectively marking his man and stifling a number of offensive drives.
"Our strategy was to keep them from scoring, and to score more than they did," said Brown. "We were just trying to come out on decent horses every chukker."
It was far from being a blue house at the start of the 3rd chukker as Casa Azul's Tod Martineau scored his 4th goal of the game, and this time on a 30-yard penalty conversion. Kim Snider would be the fourth Polo Skilz player to score tying the game on a penalty no. 2. Geoff Cameron would give Polo Skilz their first lead of the afternoon successfully converting a 30-yard penalty shot. However, the lead would be short-lived thanks to Casa Azul's Brien Limehouse, whose mastery of the mallet tied the game at 6-6.
Casa Azul would strike first in the 4th chukker, and the player who seemed to be carrying the most momentum into the final chukker scored the period's first goal as Limehouse provided his team with a one goal advantage, with an assist going to Matt Sekera. An ever determined Polo Skilz refused to capitulate and Campbell Davis scored his team's 7th goal with many in attendance thinking the game was headed to overtime, but Casa Azul would win by a half goal because of the handicap differential.
"They were a good team; a courteous team," said Brown. "It was what polo was supposed to be, a good, old sporting event where everyone has fun."