Orchard Hill 12- White Birch 10
It was a must-win situation for both White Birch (Peter Brant, Mariano Aguerre, Hilario Ulloa and Ezequiel Martínez Ferrario) and Orchard Hill (Steve Van Andel, Facundo Pieres, Polito Pieres and Julián de Lusarreta) Thursday morning when they faced one another in the third round of play in the 2016 USPA Gold Cup at the International Polo Club. Neither team had won a game and entered the contest with identical 0-2 records. A win would carry one of them on to the tournament quarterfinals while a loss would eliminate them from the competition, and as luck would have it, it was Orchard Hill with the 12-10 victory after seven contentious chukkers of play.
White Birch took early control of the game with Mariano Aguerre scoring in the opening 30 seconds of the game for a 1-0 lead. Teammate Hilario Ulloa converted a penalty shot from 60-yards out to make it 2-0 less than a minute later. Almost four scoreless minutes passed before Facundo rocketed the ball between the White Birch goalposts to make it 2-1. Polito Pieres scored on a pass from Julian de Lusarreta a minute later to level the score at 3-3. With 1:15 left in the chukker Ulloa converted a 40-yard penalty shot that gave White Birch the 3-2 lead at the end of the opening chukker.
The second chukker belonged to Orchard Hill with the level surface of the field allowing the 10-goal Pieres cousins to demonstrate their stick handling skills. Facundo Pieres opened the period with a tying goal from the field, 3-3 followed by a goal from Polito Pieres to give Orchard Hill their first lead of the game, 4-3. De Lusarreta scored in the final 14 seconds of the chukker as Orchard Hill stretched their lead to two goals, 5-3.
Facundo Pieres scored on a 30-yard penalty conversion as the third chukker got underway giving Orchard Hill a three goal advantage, 6-3. Ulloa scored on a long run, 6-4. Facundo Pieres and Ulloa exchanged goals midway through the chukker with Facundo Pieres sending the ball through the goalposts from 130-yards away for the final goal of first half and an 8-5 lead.
White Birch had regrouped at halftime and returned to the field in the fourth period on a mission. Team captain Peter Brank broke free from the opening throw-in with the ball, racing for the Orchard Hill goal. Ulloa followed up on the carry and pushed the ball over the goal line for the score, 8-6 in the opening 19 seconds. Brant scored a goal of his own at the 6:16 mark, 8-7. Aguerre tied the game at 8-8 with the final goal of the chukker. A fall by Ulloa in the chukker left him a little rattled and sent Ezequiel Ferrario to the penalty line to attempt a 40-yard penalty shot (Ulloa is the team’s designated penalty shooter). The shot went wide and the score remained tied.
White Birch wasted little time getting back into the game with Ulloa returning to the penalty shooting duties and converting a 30-yard shot for the go-ahead goal, 9-8. Polito Pieres tied it two minutes later with a goal from the field, 9-9. Facundo Pieres took the lead back for Orchard Hill with a short penalty shot and a 10-9 edge with 2:48 left in the chukker. White Birch rallied with Ulloa scoring the final goal of the chukker with the teams leaving the field with the score all even at 10-10.
The Orchard Hill defense did its job in the final period with a shutout performance. De Lusarreta scored the first goal of the sixth period that gave Orchard Hill an 11-10 advantage, but a dangerous White Birch team remained on the field and in the hunt. The Orchard Hill defense held, however, with de Lusarreta adding an insurance goal to their total at the one-minute mark and lifting his team to a 12-10 victory and a date in the quarterfinals of the 2016 USPA Gold Cup.
Facundo Pieres scored four of his six goals from the field. Polito Pieres and de Lusarreta added three goals apiece for the win. Ulloa led all scorers with seven goals (three from the penalty line). Aguerre scored twice and Brant accounted for a goal in the loss.
Dubai 11, Lucchese 6
The second Gold Cup match of the day featured two undefeated teams in Lucchese (John Muse, Guillermo Caset, Cristian Laprida and Nico Pieres) Dubai (Rashid Albwardy, Adolfo Cambiaso, Facundo Sola and Alejo Taranco). Both teams were making their 26-goal debuts in the 2016 USPA Gold Cup and each had scored wins in their opening two games. The winner of the day’s match would determine which of the two teams would advance to Wednesday’s semifinals and which would themselves competing in mini-quarterfinal competition on Sunday.
The mere appearance of Argentine 10-goaler Adolfo Cambiaso in any lineup is intimidating for most teams, and the site of him wearing a Dubai jersey would be a common site if one were watching polo competition in England where he played with Rashid Albwardy on the British Open Championship Dubai team in 2014; or with Albwardy and Alejo Taranco on the Dubai team that captured the Gold Cup in Spain in 2015.
It was Cambiaso who scored the first goal of the game on a 60-yard penalty conversion followed by a goal from the field from Taranco, 2-0. Nico Pieres got Lucchese on the scoreboard but it was Cambiaso’s second goal of the chukker that ended the first period with Dubai on top of a 3-1 lead.
Sapo Caset, the game’s other 10-goaler cut the Dubai lead back to a single goal, 3-2 with the opening goal of the second chukker. Cambiaso responded with the only other goal of the chukker as Dubai maintained their two goal advantage, 4-2.
Dubai and Lucchese traded goals in the third chukker with Cambiaso opening with a goal from the field, 5-2. Lucchese answered back with goals from Caset and Pieres, 5-4. Dubai’s final goal of the first half came on a 30-yard penalty conversion from Cambiaso that kept Dubai in the lead, 6-4.
Lucchese presented a new look to themselves as the second half got started. Goals from the field from Pieres and Magoo Laprida were complimented by shutout defense as Lucchese leveled the score at 6-6.
Dubai returned the favor in the fifth period with Facundo Sola scoring once on a 40-yard penalty shot and once from the field. Lucchese was kept off of the scoreboard and found themselves trailing Dubai, 8-6.
Under the masterful eye of Cambiaso, Dubai dominated the final period of the game. Cambiaso scored the first two goals of the sixth chukker followed by a closing goal from Albwardy as Dubai remained undefeated (3-0) and earned a spot in Wednesday’s semifinals. The loss was the first for Lucchese (2-1) who would be appearing in Sunday’s mini-quarterfinal action of the tournament.
Flexjet 11, Audi 9
In a family affair that probably didn’t sit well at the dinner table Friday night, Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, Nic Roldan, Tincho Merlos, Sebastian Merlos) surprised her husband’s Audi team (Marc Ganzi, Gonzalito Pieres, Rodrigo Andrade and Fred Mannix) with an 11-9 victory, handing Audi (2-1) their first defeat in Gold Cup competition. The win boosted the Flexjet record to 2-1 and offered them a chance to compete for the number one bracket finish and a berth in the semifinals on Wednesday.
Nic Roldan opened the scoring for Flexjet as he followed up a run down the field from team captain Melissa Ganzi, 1-0. Agustin “Tincho” Merlos made it 2-0 with his first goal of the day. Marc Ganzi scored on a pass from Brazilian 9-goaler Rodrigo Andrade and Gonzalito Peres tied it at 2-2 on a 30-yard penalty conversion. Tincho Merlos scored for the second time with just 49 seconds on the clock to give Flexjet the lead, 3-2.
Sebastian Merlos (Tincho’s older brother) scored Flexjet’s fourth goal of the game at the 5:49 mark of the second chukker, 4-2, when Audi stormed back. Pieres converted another 30-yard penalty shot and Rodrigo Andrade tied the score at 4-4 with the last goal of the chukker.
Andrade opened with a goal from the field just 21 seconds into the third chukker with Audi taking the 5-4 lead. Ensuing goals from Tincho Merlos and Sebastian Merlos closed out the period with Flexjet defending a fragile one goal lead, 6-5.
Pieres kicked off the fourth chukker with a 40-yard penalty conversion that deadlocked the game at 6-6. A goal from Sebastian Merlos gave the lead back to Flexjet, 7-6. Tincho Merlos scored the last two goals of the period, giving Flexjet a three goals lead, 9-6.
Audi stated a mini-rally in the fifth with goals from Andrade and Pieres (a 40-yard penalty conversion). Flexjet got a goal from Roldan, however, and continued lead, 10-8.
Flexjet turned in an impressive defensive performance in the final chukker of the game, holding Audi to a single goal from Pieres on a 60-yard Penalty 6 conversion. Tincho Merlos scored the only other goal of the period in an 11-9 Flexjet win.
Agustin “Tincho” Merlos led the field in scoring with six goals. Sebastian Merlos added three goals and Roldan was credited with two goals. Pieres scored all five of his goals on penalty shots. Andrade scored three times with Marc Ganzi adding a goal from the field.
Coca-Cola 12, Valiente 11
In the final game of the day a balanced Coca-Cola attack (Gillian Johnston, Miguel Novillo Astrada, Sugar Erskine and Julio Arellano) recorded a 12-11 win at the expense of Valiente (Bob Jornayvaz, Santiago Chavanne, Diego Cavanagh and Tomas Garcia del Rio). The win gives Coca-Cola a 2-1 record and hopes of advancing into the quarterfinals.
Valiente received one goal by handicap from the 26-goal Coca-Cola lineup and watched as Gillian Johnston tied the game with a goal from the field, 1-1. Diego Cavanagh scored his first goal of the game for a 2-1 Valiente advantage but a goal from Miguel Novillo Astrada ended the first chukker all even at 2-2.
Coca-Cola got into foul trouble in the second period. A pair of fouls were turned into penalty goals with Santiago Chavanne converting two penalty shots from the 60-yard mark, 4-2. Chavanne added another goal from the field for a comfortable 5-2 advantage.
Coca-Cola charged back into the game in the third period behind a red-hot mallet in the hand of Sugar Erskine. Erskine scored twice from the field and once on a 30-yard penalty conversion. Valiente got penalty goals from Cavanagh and Chavanne and left the field at the end of the first half with a 7-5 advantage.
Chavanne’s fifth goal of the game opened the second half of play as Valiente extended their lead to three goals, 8-5. Goals from the field from Julio Arellano and Astrada had Coca-Cola within a goal of the lead, 8-7.
Coca-Cola turned the pressure on in the fifth period. Arellano converted a 30-yard penalty shot for a goal and added a goal from the field. Teammate Astrada scored from the field as Coca-Cola edged Valiente by a single goal, 10-9.
Valiente rallied in the sixth. Cavanagh opened the scoring in the sixth with a goal from the field, 10-10. Erskine countered with a goal of his own, 11-10. A late whistle sent Chavanne to the penalty line for Valiente. Chavanne converted the final shot in regulation play and forced a sudden-death.
After a brief intermission, the game resumed and Coca-Cola went to work. In the opening minute of play, Arellano found himself on the scoring end of a shot toward the Valiente goal for the 12-11 overtime win.
Arellano and Erskine scored four goals each for the Coca-Cola win. Astrada added three goals and team captain Gillian Johnston scored once. Chavanne led he Coca-Cola attack with seven goals. Cavanagh scored four times and the team received one goal to start.