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La Casa Hermosa Captures Aspen Valley Cup 8-Goal Final; Mackenzie Weisz Named Most Valuable Player

La Casa Hermosa Captures Aspen Valley Cup 8-Goal Final; Mackenzie Weisz Named Most Valuable Player
Wesley Uys(4) of KIG and Hector Galindo (3) of La Casa Hermosa put the brakes on in front of the sideboards. Photo by Scott Fisher

WELLINGTON, FL-Feb. 4, 2014----With a diverse lineup that ranged from a 10-year-old to a former 8-goaler, La Casa Hermosa captured the Aspen Valley Cup 8-Goal Tournament.

La Casa Hermosa (Mackenzie Weisz, Brad Blake, Hector Galindo, Connell Erb) built a big lead early in the game and held off KIG (Donovan Strataman, Bash Kazi, Chris Nevins, Wesley Uys), to win 15-13, on a steamy Tuesday afternoon at Grand Champions Polo Club Polo West.

Tournament Most Valuable Player Mackenzie Weisz of La Casa Hermosa and polo manager Juan Olivera. Photo by Scott Fisher

Weisz, at 10 the youngest player in the nine-team tournament, was named the game's Most Valuable Player after scoring three goals and playing well at both ends of the field.

Spicey, ridden and owned by Galindo, was named Best Playing Pony.

Mackenzie Weisz (1) of La Casa Hermosa drives downfield for one of his three goals. Photo by Scott Fisher

Weisz, a fifth grader, replaced Brinkley Erb, who injured her right arm during the first game of the tournament. Weisz said he dedicated the game to his older brother Christian, who broke his ankle during a juniors tournament last month.

Connell Erb (4) of La Casa Hermosa keeps possession driving downfield despite defenders closing in. Photo by Scott Fisher

Erb's 17-year-old sister Connell also played well alongside veteran teammate Hector Galindo and Brad Blake.

La Casa Hermosa's Brad Blake (2) takes off with the ball ahead of the pack. Photo by Scott Fisher

"I was a little nervous in the beginning and then I calmed down a lot," said Weisz, a member of a polo family who has been playing since he was 3. His father, Andres, began playing polo at age 12 in Mar del Plata, Argentina and is now a pro.

La Casa Hermosa Mackenzie Weisz (1) shows his Most Valuable Player winning form stretching for the ball in front of defender Donovan Stratemann (1). Photo by Scott Fisher

"I was pretty happy playing, I got three goals," Weisz said. "I am happy winning the tournament. It's great playing with players like Hector. When you play with younger people and you are the best one, you might not be learning as much when you're playing with older people who are better than you.

"I love polo, my dad plays, my whole family plays. I play a lot."

His teammates and opposing players were impressed with Weisz play.

KIG's Chris Nevins (3) reaches for the ball under the horse of Brad Blake (2) of La Casa Hermosa. Photo by Scott Fisher

"The kid is just amazing," Nevins said.

La Casa Hermosa looked like it was going to blow out KIG building leads of 5-0 and 7-1 in the first two chukkers before KIG started digging itself out of a hole and trailed by only three at the half (8-5).

Behind Nevins' hot mallet in the third and fourth chukker, KIG closed the gap to two goals (9-7) in the fourth chukker and again in the fifth chukker (11-9) before Galindo and Blake enabled La Casa Hermosa to pull away by five goals early in the sixth chukker.

Hector Galindo (3) of La Casa Hermosa pursues Chris Nevins (3) of KIG. Photo by Scott Fisher

Galindo led scoring with eight goals and Blake added four goals. Nevins had a game-high nine goals.

"I think it happens to a lot of teams where mentally you just relax after getting a big lead," said Galindo, a former 8-goaler. "The other team has nothing to lose and they come on strong and it's hard to get that momentum back.

"When we did get it back, I was glad at that," Galindo said.

La Casa Hermosa's Hector Galindo (3) tries to regain possession of the ball. Photo by Scott Fisher

With such a diverse lineup, Galindo expected his team to play well as the tournament underdog but never dreamed of winning it all.

"We have a very nice team," Galindo said. "It came together from the beginning. We didn't expect to win it. Brad and I have played together a lot. There were a lot of good teams in this tournament, we just got better and better. I enjoyed it.

"Mackie came in and did a good job. It was great to see him out there. I started playing when I was 10, he definitely reminds me when I started out.

KIG's Chris Nevins (3) leads into his shot despite pressure from Hector Galindo (3) of La Casa Hermosa. Photo by Scott Fisher

"He has a great future, he is going to be one of the top players," Galindo said. "He is young and fearless. When you're at that age everything comes naturally, you don't even think about it, it just happens."

La Casa Hermosa teammates Mackenzie Weisz, Hector Galindo, Brad Blake and Connell Erb hoist the winning cup. Photo by Scott Fisher

Tonchala (Enrique Barco, Eduardo Barco, Pablo Pulido, Tavi Usandizaga) won the Aspen Valley Cup 8-Goal Handicap Final with a thrilling 10-9 victory over Grand Champions (Lucas Lalor, Wes Finlayson, Juancito Bollini, Scott Swerdlin).

Usandizaga led scoring with nine goals including the game-winner in the seventh chukker. Finlayson had four goals for Grand Champions.

KIG teammates Donovan Stratemann, Bosh Kazi, Chris Nevins, Wesley Uys and La Casa Hermosa teammates Mackenzie Weisz, Hector Galindo, Brad Blake, Connell Erb and umpires

On Wednesday, Pony Express and Elegante Polo will play in the 4 p.m. final of the Metropolitan 5-Goal Cup at Pony Express' Field off 50th.

For game recaps, news, features and photos of Grand Champions Polo Club-related events, go to www.grandchampionspoloclub.org.

To the victors go the spoils and trophies for the Aspen Valley Cup 8-Goal Final. Photo by Scott Fisher

2014 HIGH GOAL SEASON

JANUARY 30-FEBRUARY 23: Ylvisaker Cup-Thursday, Flight Options vs. Orchard Hill, 1 p.m.; Friday, Audi vs. CT Energia, 3 p.m.; Feb. 9, Flight Options vs. Villa del Lago/Casablanca, noon; Feb. 12, Audi vs. Los Machitos/Heathcote, 4 p.m.; Feb. 13, Flight Options vs. Lechuza Caracas, 1 p.m.; Feb 16, Quarterfinals; Feb. 19, Semifinals; Feb. 23, George Haas Cup Final, noon; Ylvisaker Cup Finals.

FEBRUARY 14: National Museum of Polo & Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

FEBRUARY 15: Outback 40-Goal Challenge, 3 p.m.

FEBRUARY 16-MARCH 2: C.V. Whitney Cup

FEBRUARY 22-MARCH 8: Iglehart Cup

MARCH 5-23: USPA Piaget Gold Cup

MARCH 26-APRIL 20: 110th Maserati U.S. Open Polo Championships

Even dogs enjoy an afternoon polo game under a sun-drenched sky. Photo by Scott Fisher