A horse that's no stranger to being named Best Playing Pony made a big difference in Bendabout's victory Thursday over El Cedro Azul in the 302 Polo USPA Continental Cup 16 goal at Isinya. Bendabout would go onto record a 13-9 victory and in doing so went undefeated in the tournament, earning their way into the final. However, they had to work for the win, said Julio Arellano, Bendabout.
"They started out great in the first chukker," said Julio Arellano. "They came back again in the fifth. They outplayed us in both the first and the fifth chukkers."
A steady, consistent and balanced offense played a role in Bendabout's success as their strong play helped to shift the momentum. El Cedro Azul was as strong as Cedar as Ruben Coscia scored the game's first two goals, one from the field and the other on a successful penalty conversion. Bendabout would answer on the first of Gillian Johnston's six goals. All four Bendabout players scored before the end of the second chukker as Julio Arellano, Whistle Uys and Agustin Arellano would score in succession.
It was a game of incredible angled shots that somehow found the goal mouth and would go through the uprights including a unfathomable shot by Johnston from the endline. Johnston would enjoy a strong first half scoring 3 times, including a goal from 85 yards out. Bendabout took a 7-3 lead into the half
"The key was the 3rd chukker," said Julio Arellano. "Gillian got a couple of goals on Silverleaf, and that for me was the game changer."
The second half opened with Bendabout adding to their lead as Julio Arellano took possession of the ball near midfield and would finish the play. But, El Cedro Azul began to chip away with Pelon Escapite converting a 40-yard penalty shot. Julio Arellano answered back with a successful penalty no. 3. Johnston would pick up her 4th goal of the game from the field, and would have a goal in every chukker with the exception of the 2nd period. El Cedro Azul's Gabriel Crespo would bury the ball in the goal from the ensuing bowl-in late in the period.
The final goal of the 4th chukker shifted the momentum to El Cedro Azul as Ruben Coscia and Pelon Escapite turned their game up a notch as they outscored Bendabout 3-1 in the period. The first goal coming from a rocket launched by Coscia as he scored from 60-yards out. El Cedro Azul may have had another goal but a strong defensive play by Agustin Arellano helped to thwart the opportunity. Escapite would pick up his first goal from the field, and Coscia would score on a 40-yard penalty shot to reduce the deficit to 10-8. Bendabout would score at the 6:56 mark of the period as Johnston would finish a play started by Uys.
And as impressive as Johnston's goals were earlier in the game, El Cedro Azul's Pelon Escapite's goal in the sixth chukker, a near side shot from an incredible angle, reduced Bendabout's lead to 2 goals. Bendabout's response was to win the ensuing bowl-in, and Whistle Uys' shot would hit the left upright, but Julio Arellano would finish the play. Johnston capped the scoring with her 6th goal from the field.
Agustin Arellano, Lauren Biddle and J.P. Meyer will represent the United States in the 16 and under polo tournament in China. They left Thursday afternoon. Agustin Arellano scored two goals in Bendabout's victory beefore leaving.
"It means a lot to me to represent my country," said Agustin Arellano. "I get to play with friends and meet new people. It's cool to be selected to go."