Wins by White Birch and Audi set Wednesday’s US Open semifinals
By Alex Webbe
Wins by White Birch (Mariano Obregon, Hilario Ulloa, Mariano Aguerre and Segundo Merlos) and Audi Marc Ganzi, Rodrigo Andrade, Gonzalito Pieres and Freddie Mannix) in Sunday’s “mini quarterfinals” set the stage for Wednesday’s semifinals of the 2016 United States Polo Association at the International Polo club.
In one of the most exciting games of the season and the opening match of the day, White Birch jumped out to a commanding 10-3 lead and then needed a goal in the final seconds of the game to salvage the 13-12 win over Lucchese (John Muse, Nico Pieres, Magoo Laprida and Sapo Caset).
Two goals from Hilario Ulloa and a goal from Mariano Aguerre were answered by a single goal from Magoo Laprida in the opening chukker of play. At the end of the period, White Birch rode off the field with a 3-1 edge.
The White Birch offense continued to pound Lucchese in second chukker action. Ulloa converted penalty shots from 60 and 30-yards and Aguerre added another goal from the field. The Lucchese attack was shuttered with Argentine 10-goaler Sapo managing the team’s only score of the period on a 40-yard penalty shot. The White Birch lead continued to grow and stood at 6-2 after the opening two periods of the game.
Ulloa’s fifth goal of the game opened the scoring in the third chukker and extended the White Birch lead to five goals, 7-2. Caset responded with a 60-yard penalty goal to make it 7-3. Ulloa drained a neck-shot from sixty yards out and added another penalty goa on a 40-yard conversion. At the end of the first half White Birch held an impressive six goal lead, 9-3.
Ulloa scored on a 30-yard penalty shot as the second half got underway, stretching the White Birch lead to seven goals, 10-3, when the Lucchese offense began to stir. Caset scored on back-to-back 30-yard penalty shots and Lucchese was awarded a goal as a result of a Penalty 1 called against White Birch. At the end of the fourth chukker Lucchese had come within four goals of the lead, 10-6.
A determined Lucchese charged into the fifth period with renewed energy. A 30-yard penalty goal from Caset was followed by a goal from the field from teammate Magoo Laprida. Lucchese had cut the lead down to just two goals, 10-8, with 4:36 left in the chukker. Ulloa converted a 60-yard penalty shot for a goal and Caset countered with a 40-yard penalty goal, 11-9. Ulloa scored the final goal of the chukker on a 100-yard blast that gave White Birch a 12-9 lead, going into the final chukker of regulation play.
Caset got the ball rolling in the sixth period with consecutive 60-yard penalty conversions that had Lucchese breathing down the necks of the White birch players, 12-11. With just 3:18 on the clock, Laprida scored his third goal of the game to tie a stunned White Birch lineup, 12-12. Each team had an opportunity to end the game but shots went wide or were blocked. White Birch’s Mariano Aguerre scored the winning goal in the final seconds of the game as he followed up a run by Ulloa. Aguerre saw an opening and drove the ball between two players for the winning goal, 13-12.
Ulloa led all scoring with ten goals (four on penalty shots). Aguerre added the other three goals for the victory and a berth in Wednesday’s 4pm US Open semifinal against Orchard Hill (Facundo Pieres, Julian de Lusarreta, Juan Martin Nero and Steve Van Andel).
Audi 13, Valiente 6
In the feature match of the day an eager Audi polo team took control of the game with Valiente (Bob Jornayvaz, Santi Torres, Alfredo Capella and Tomas Garcia del Rio) from the opening throw-in and scored the first three goals of the game. Goals from the field from Gonzalito Pieres, Rodrigo Andrade and Marc Ganzi went unanswered, as they took the first lead of the game, 3-0.
Two more goals from Andrade and a pair of penalty conversions for goals from Pieres had Audi in front by six goals, 7-1, at the end of the chukker, with Alfredo Capella scoring Valiente’s only goal of the chukker and first goal of the game.
The Valiente attack was waking up in the third period with goals from Tomas Garcia del Rio and Capella. Their efforts were supported by shutout defense that cut the Audi lead to four goals, 7-3, to end the first half of play.
A refocused Audi team took back control of the game in the fourth period, and it was Andrade with the lucky mallet. The 9-goal Brazilian scored twice from the field. A disciplined Audi defense held Valiente scoreless and moved in front by six goals, 9-3.
Pieres converted a 40-yard penalty shot in the fifth followed by a 35-yard blast from the field for another goal as the Audi lead extended to eight goals, 11-3. Del Rio scored the final goal of the chukker on a 50-yard Safety conversion. Audi rode off the field with one chukker remaining to be played in an 11-4 game.
Sixth chukker goals from Andrade and Pieres had Valiente trailing by nine goals, 13-4, at the 5:42 mark. Single goals from Capella and Del Rio ended the game with Audi celebrating the 13-6 win and Wednesday’s 10am semifinal slot against Dubai (Rashid Albwardy, Alejo Taranco, Facundo Sola and Adolfo Cambiaso).
Andrade received MVP honors for his efforts with Valiente’s “Foxi” (played by del Rio) being named Best Playing Pony.