Coca-Cola Wins Ylvisaker Cup Final In Memory of Donovan Stratemann
Coca-Cola and Tonkawa surpassed undefeated opponents in the Ylvisaker Cup Semifinal matches to meet in the Sunday, February 19, final at the International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington, Florida. Sapo Caset dribbled the ball through a sea of red jerseys to score the first goal of the game for Tonkawa. It was quickly answered by Coca-Cola’s Wesley Finlayson (Team USPA) substituting for the injured Del Walton. The first chukker ended with a tie score of 1-1. As the second and third chukkers progressed, Coca-Cola began to concede goals due to penalties. Three goals from Sapo Caset, two off the penalty line and one from the field gave Tonkawa the edge. Consistent scoring from Julio Arellano kept Coca-Cola in the game, but a goal from Costi Caset at the end of the half put Tonkawa in a great position leading 6-3 over Coca-Cola.
Coca-Cola came alive in the fourth chukker with four unanswered goals. Beginning with an open goal penalty conversion from Arellano, Coca-Cola continued their forward momentum with three combined field goals from Julian de Lusarreta and Finlayson to take the lead for the first time 7-6. “After halftime we relaxed a little bit,” said de Lusarreta “and we started hitting, and the goals came.” The game opened up in the fifth with end-to-end runs and exciting goal-mouth saves from each team. Despite a second chukker mallet to the elbow and subsequently more time out for the injury in the fifth, Sapo Caset could not be stopped. He scored the equalizing and only goal of the chukker to bring the score 7-all entering the sixth.
Within the first minute of sixth chukker play, Sapo Caset scored from the field and Tonkawa took back the lead 8-7. A missed opportunity by Coca-Cola on a penalty 3 served as a lucky break for Tonkawa as they maintained the lead. Only moments before the 30 second horn Arellano made a backshot to goal which was picked up by Gillian Johnston, riding her homebred Jackpot, as she made a skillful neckshot into the goal to the tie the score! Overtime began as the remainder of regulation time was played out. Costi Caset snatched the ball out of the line-up and took off towards goal, but he ran out of time falling just a few feet short and the game went into an extra chukker.
The seventh chukker opened with a bowl-in dangerously close to the Coca-Cola goal but it was quickly cleared out. Within the first two minutes, both teams suffered disappointing near goals; one from de Lusarreta and another from Facundo Obregon. The game was ultimately decided by a penalty 3 conversion after a Tonkawa player stole the ball from Johnston however, fouled the second man. The steadfast Arellano who calmly approached the ball at a walk, sent the ball through the uprights for the win, final score 9-8.
A huge victory for Coca-Cola, their first 20-goal tournament win of the season, the game had an even greater meaning as it was dedicated to the late Donovan Stratemann. Stratemann was best friends with Julio Arellano’s children. Agustin Arellano described the win, “It meant so much to us! Gillian and my dad said before the game that this was for Donovan and they did it for Donovan.” “We all knew he was helping us out,” said Hope Arellano.
“It’s been a tough several days for the family,” said Julio Arellano, “I didn’t feel like I had my best game, but I’ll tell you what, my teammates sure stepped up to the plate and more today.”
When asked about Coca-Cola’s halftime tent talk Arellano stated, “I said, ‘Look, those guys are hitting us first before we hit them, they are setting the tempo, they are setting the rhythm. We need to come out there and be aggressive.’ After a long halftime we were able to come out in the fourth chukker and change our game and step it up. A little bit like the patriots I guess.”
Most Valuable Player was awarded to Julian de Lusarreta and Best Playing Pony honors were presented to 11-year-old Annie Negra ridden and owned by Sapo Caset. “I played her in the third and the sixth,” beamed Caset. “I actually bought her this year, she came from Paco de Narvaez. She wasn’t my best mare at the start of the season, but game after game she has gotten better and better. Since the quarterfinals I have been doubling her and playing two chukkers and she’s been playing amazing – every game she has improved. I have a lot of confidence on her.”
Ylvisaker Cup Finals. MVP and BPP photos and coverage credit United States Polo Association. Trophy photo © David Lominska/International Polo Club.