US Open wins by Orchard Hill and White Birch finish first round play
By Alex Webbe
Wins by Orchard Hill and White Birch Sunday afternoon signaled the end of the first round of play in the 2016 United States Open championship at the International Polo Club.
In the opening match of the day Orchard Hill (Facundo Pieres, Julian de Lusarreta and Juan Martin Nero) took the field against Audi (Marc Ganzi, Rodrigo Andrade, Gonzalito Pieres and Freddie Mannix) with 10-goaler Nero filling in for 10-goaler Polito Pieres who suffered a shoulder separation in the team’s USPA Gold Cup quarterfinal win against Flexjet.
Neither team was able to zero in on the opponent’s goal in the opening minutes of play despite runs up and down the field. With just 2:43 left in the opening chukker Julian de Lusarreta put the first goal on the scoreboard for the 1-0 Orchard Hill lead. Juan Martin Nero made it 2-0 with a goal from the field with 17 seconds showing on the clock.
Orchard Hill continued to pound the Audi defense with Argentine 10-goaler Facundo Pieres converting a 30-yard penalty shot followed by a pair of goals from the field from de Lusarreta. For the second straight chukker Audi was held scoreless aa Orchard Hill dominated the contest in the early chukkers, 5-0.
Audi scored the first two goals of the third chukker on 40-yard penalty conversions from Gonzalito Pieres, cutting the Orchard Hill lead to three goals, 5-2. Facundo Pieres finished a long run with his second goal of the game at the 1:32 mark and added a final goal from the field in the final 42 seconds of the period. At the end of the first half it was all Orchard Hill, 7-2.
Nero confirmed his value to the team with a goal on an extreme angel shot two minutes into the fourth, followed by a goal from the field from de Lusarreta to make it 9-2, Orchard Hill. Gonzalito Pieres converted a 60-yard penalty shot with 3:56 left in the chukker. 9-3. Nero scored his third goal of the game to extend the Orchard Hill lead to seven goals, 10-3. Marc Ganzi responded with a goal at the 2:16 mark and Facundo Pieres and Freddie Mannix exchanged goals to close out the period with Orchard Hill on top of a six goal, 11-5 lead.
Facundo Pieres extended the Audi lead to seven goals with a goal in the opening seconds of the fifth chukker, 12-5, when the Audi offense came alive. Penalty goals from Gonzalito Pieres and Andrade were capped by a final goal from Gonzalito Pieres on a long pass from Mannix. Audi scored the last three goals of the fifth chukker but continued to trail, 12-8.
Mannix drove the ball through the Orchard Hill goalposts in the opening minute of the sixth chukker, bringing Audi to within three goals of the lead, 12-9. Gonzalito Pieres scored off of a Penalty 5 at the 4:46 mark, making the seemingly insurmountable Orchard Hill lead, look within reach, 12-10. The high-scoring Orchard Hill team now turned to defense, turning Audi attacks aside and holding on for the 12-10 victory despite the efforts put forth by the Audi attackers.
Facundo Pieres led the Orchard Hill attack with five goals; de Lusarreta added four goals and Nero was credited with three goals in the win. Gonzalito Pieres scored four of his game high six goals on penalty conversions. Mannix scored twice and Ganzi and Andrade each added a goal in the loss.
White Birch 11, Valiente 7
In the second US Open match of the day White Birch (Mariano Obregon, Hilario Ulloa, Mariano Aguerre and Peter Brant) took the wind out of the defending championship Valiente team (Bob Jornayvaz, Santi Torres, Alfredo Capella and Tomas Garcia del Rio) with an 11-7 win that had Valiente trailing through the game.
To be fair to Valiente, they were missing a number of very important ingredients to last year’s championship team in Alejo Taranco and Adolfo Cambiaso (playing for Dubai in this year’s Open) and Guillermo Terrera (playing in Dubai this year), but it was an aggressive White Birch team that made the difference in the Sunday afternoon game.
The game got off to a slow and guarded start with Hilario Ulloa scoring the only goal of the opening chukker for a 1-0 White Birch advantage.
Ulloa added his second goal of the game at 4:50 of the second period to make it 2-0. Alfredo Capella scored Valiente’s first goal of the game with 3:19 left in the chukker and teammate Tomas Garcia del Rio tied the game at 2-2 with 1:55 on the game clock. Ulloa countered with a 40-yard penalty conversion and Mariano Aguerre closed out the scoring in the chukker with a goal from the field with just 40 seconds left in the period, White Birch took the lead back, 4-2.
As the game began to settle down the two teams traded goals in third chukker action. Ulloa and Aguirre scored single goals for White Birch while Valiente Garcia del Rio converted a penalty shot and Capella scored a goal from the field. The two goal White Birch lead held at the end of the first half, 6-4.
An overpowering White Birch attack took control of the field in the fourth chukker and Ulloa was at the head. Three consecutive goals from Ulloa (two on penalty conversions) went unanswered as the White Birch lead grew to five goals, 9-4.
Santi Torres scored his first goal of the game with only 2:21 remaining in the fifth chukker, 9-5. Ulloa scored the final goal of the chukker to put White Birch ahead, 10-5.
Ulloa connected on a 60-yard penalty shot in the opening minute of the sixth chukker, stretching the White Birch lead to six goals, 11-5. Goals from Capella and Garcia del Rio ended the game with Valiente coming up on the short end of an 11-7 score.
Ulloa led all scoring with nine goals (five on penalty shots). Aguirre added eh other two goals for the win. Capella and Garcia del Rio each scored three times for Valiente. Torres added a single in a losing effort.
US Open play will continue on Saturday, April 9th with a 10am game between White Birch and Coca-Cola (Gillian Johnston, Sugar Erskine, Miguel Astrada and Julio Arellano) followed by a battle between Valiente and Dubai (Rashid Albwardy, Alejo Taranco, Facundo Sola and Adolfo Cambiaso).