Capping off a spectacular 18-goal season at the International Polo Club Palm Beach, La Fe and CK Shack faced-off in front of eager spectators on the U.S. Polo Assn. Stadium Field to battle for the coveted Ylvisaker Cup. The tournament’s exciting final match was held Sunday, Feb. 6.
Faced with the adversity of injuries and an ever-changing roster, CK Shack leaned on the firepower of Keko Magrini and distance shooting of Joaquin Panelo to set an early tone and kickstart the scoring. A determined and cohesive La Fe team led by Francisco Elizalde fought back, and the neck-in-neck match went down to the final seconds of play. Ultimately CK Shack’s advantage from the penalty line made the difference, letting them hang on to a narrow lead in the dying seconds and hoist the Ylvisaker Cup 12-11.
Fielding their fourth consecutive lineup change in as many games presented a continuous challenge throughout the Ylvisaker Cup for CK Shack, but the final roster was composed of familiarity in the brother duo of Keko and Santino Magrini, and cousins Bautista and Joaquin Panelo.
Facing off in bracket play in the Ylvisaker Cup, La Fe and CK Shack entered the final evenly matched with each team holding a 2-1 record, and La Fe narrowly taking their previous meeting 8-7. CK Shack relied on a strategy to remain relaxed and keep the ball in constant rotation to meet the challenge of another close match with a familiar foe.
CK Shack was awarded the first scoring opportunity of the match as Joaquin Panelo hit his first Penalty 4 of the day. Taking advantage of La Fe’s early foul troubles, CK Shack was able to dominate in the first chukker on three consecutive goals from the penalty line, switching between Keko Magrini on two undefended Penalty 2’s and another Penalty 4 from Joaquin Panelo, for an early 4-0 lead.
Heating up in the second, La Fe mounted a strong response with Elizalde accounting for three goals, including two from the penalty line and another on a brilliant drive to find the goal. Keko Magrini found his second from the field, but La Fe continued to apply pressure in the third with another successful goal from distance off the mallet of Elizalde, followed by the horsepower of Robi Bilbao on a breakaway to take a 5-5 tie into halftime.
Emerging from the break, a thundering Keko Magrini hit the goal to pull CK Shack back into the game for their first scoring drive since the second chukker. Keeping the game tight, Elizalde answered immediately for La Fe on back-to-back goals, while Keko Magrini bookended the chukker from the field to re-tie the game 7-7.
Generating positive field position on their knock-ins throughout the day, Bilbao was able to retake the lead for La Fe on a nearside neckshot in traffic. Just as momentum began to swing toward a driving La Fe, foul troubles emerged once more, sending Keko Magrini to the penalty line twice, while Santino Magrini scored his first of the day to take a tight 10-8 lead for CK Shack into the final chukker of play.
Scoring the first two goals of the sixth chukker and completing a run of five unanswered goals, CK Shack left little time for a La Fe comeback. Two penalty goals by Elizalde gave La Fe hope as they raced back to the throw-in line with a chance to tie the score but time expired, and CK Shack celebrated the hard-fought 12-11 victory.
Relying on the strong play of family and friends enabled CK Shack to emerge victorious despite the unique circumstances of playing without a team owner on the field.
“It’s different,” Joaquin Panelo said. “The pressure is always there, they’re not with you but watching everything you do from the outside.”
Keko Magrini compared playing on CK Shack without an actively playing team owner to an Argentine style of polo where, “everybody plays for fun and for the sport.”
Leading his team with nine goals on the day for an impressive total of 30 overall in the Ylvisaker Cup, Keko Magrini was named Most Valuable Player. Best Playing Pony was awarded to Dolfina Mayor, an 11-year-old Argentine bay mare played and owned by Francisco Elizalde.
Action at IPC has now turned to the Gauntlet of Polo’s first leg of play in the C.V. Whitney Cup, with Keko Magrini teaming up with the father-son duo of Adolfo and Porto Cambiaso on Scone, while Lucas Escobar will be joining SD Farms, and the remaining members of La Fe will return to play once more with Lucas Diaz Alberdi. Visit www.internationalpoloclub.com to learn more.