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Facundo Sola

Facundo Sola, Segundo Merlos, Nic Roldan and Miguel Novillo Astrada.

Facundo Sola, Miguel Novillo Astrada, Gonzalito Pieres and Eduardo Astrada.

Facundo Sola and Nic Roldan.

Nico Pieres, Julio Arellano and Pelon Sterling

Juan Martin Nero and Julio Arellano

Gillian Johnston and Juan Martin Nero

Agustin Garcia Grossi, Julio Arellano, Juan Martin Nero, Gillian Johnston, Nico Pieres, Sugar Erskine and Pelon Sterling.

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Photographs may be used free of charge only in relation to the PMG press releases they pertain to.

Las Monjitas, Lechuza Caracas Slide Into Position for Les Armour Final

Written by: Alannah Castro & Melanja Jones
Client: International Polo Club Palm Beach
Release Date: 2015-02-26

Sola Seals the Deal for Las Monjitas in OT With 12-11 Win Over FlexJet

Las Monjitas defeated FlexJet 12-11 in overtime during the semifinal of the Les Armour Cup at the International Polo Club Palm Beach (IPC) on Thursday.

Las Monjitas                           FlexJet
Segundo Merlos   A                 Melissa Ganzi   A
Facundo Sola   8T                   Gonzalito Pieres   9
Eduardo Astrada   9                Miguel Astrada   9
Sebastian Merlos   9               Nic Roldan   8

Play began in fits and starts, with the first few goals made on penalty shots or conversions. Sebastian Merlos scored the first field goal, tapping the ball in to tie the game 2-2. The match continued tightly contested, with neither team ever able to secure more than a two-goal lead.

Facundo Sola chalked up two back-to-back goals in the second chukker for Las Monjitas. Gonzalito Pieres, who demonstrated his penalty shooting prowess throughout the game, promptly converted to retie the score. After a stretch of back-and-forth play that saw the score tied (and untied) several times, Sola and Sebastian Merlos pulled Las Monjitas into an 8-6 lead at the end of the third chukker. But during this game, no lead was safe.

FlexJet showed tremendous mental toughness in the fourth chukker, carrying the ball with determination to tie the game 8-8. The father-and-son Merlos duo had the play of the day in the fifth chukker. Sebastian Merlos hit a pass out of the air to his son, Segundo Merlos, who drove the ball in to score. Nic Roldan and the FlexJet squad played power polo throughout the fifth chukker as they fought to stay in the game.

On a challenge by Las Monjitas, an important call was overturned in the final chukker through the use of instant replay Then Sola scored, and FlexJet immediately responded with an incredible play. Pieres hit a backshot out of the bowl-in, and Roldan accelerated with astounding speed to drive a goal in, prompting announcer Toby Wayman to dub him "the magic man – now you see him, now you don't."

With the score tied 11-all, it came down to a penalty shot to determine whether the game would go into overtime. The shot went wide, and the teams headed back to their tents to regroup and strategize. Just seconds into overtime a whistle blew, and the call was challenged. The ruling of no foul was upheld. In the resulting bowl-in Sola made a break for it, slamming in a goal to end the match 12-11.

Segundo Merlos was thrilled with his debut in 26-goal polo. "I think it was very good experience, and playing with these guys that play amazing is so different," he said, his face awash in excitement. "You feel like the game is so much faster than in low-goal. I really enjoyed it."  

Sebastian Merlos was pleased with Las Monjitas’s performance, particularly given that it was only second game the team had played together. Still, he said there is room for improvement in the final.

"I think we had good second, third and fourth chukkers, and then we fouled a little bit too much, especially Facundo and myself," he said. "When we have position on the ball, we are a very good team. When we don't have position on the ball, we are a little bit too anxious to get the ball back."  

The Les Armour Cup Final will be held Sunday at the International Polo Club Palm Beach, with Las Monjitas taking on Lechuza Caracas at noon. The 3 p.m. feature match will pit Alegria against Orchard Hill in the C.V. Whitney Cup Final.

In Flying Finish, Lechuza Caracas Defeats Coca-Cola 9-8

Lechuza Caracas led for only two minutes and change in the Les Armour Cup semifinal, but its timing was perfect. Nico Pieres scored the go-ahead goal with 2:39 left in the sixth chukker to give Lechuza its first and last lead of the game (9-8) over Coca-Cola, propelling Lechuza into the Les Armour Cup Final.

Coca-Cola                        Lechuza Caracas
Gillian Johnston   2            Victor Vargas   1
Sugar Erskine   6               Nico Pieres   8
Pelon Stirling   10              Juan Martin Nero   10
Julio Arellano   8               Agustin Garcia Grossi   7

Pieres, who scored all six of his goals in the second half, made no excuses for the slow start. “We started very badly, maybe especially me and Juan Ma,” he said afterward.

“Si!” interjected 10-goal player Juan Martin Nero, as quick as Pieres to own a mistake.

Pieres reflected for a moment. “But then we changed a bit and started hitting the ball and scoring some goals, and I think that was the difference in the game,” he said.

Both teams started tentatively in the first chukker. With significant changes in their rosters from the previous year, Lechuza and Coca-Cola appeared to still be adjusting to new teammates. Coca-Cola got on the board with a goal by Pelon Stirling but then saw several shots go wide of goal. Victor Vargas broke the scoring drought for both teams with a run to the south goal to start the second chukker. That seemed to galvanize his opposition, as Julio Arellano then went on a four-goal run to put Coca-Cola in the lead 5-1 at the end of the second chukker.

Play continued in the same theme in the third chukker. Coca-Cola stayed on the offensive but several drives went wide of goal. Arellano scored again to give Coca-Cola a huge 6-1 lead. Vargas was finally able to score for Lechuza in the closing moments of the third, giving hope to his team and tightening the gap to 6-2. As the teams rode off the field for halftime, announcer Toby Wayman quoted his father, polo legend Tommy Wayman: “It’s better to go into halftime down a couple goals so you come out hungry.”

Those tactful words were prophetic, as Lechuza outscored Coca-Cola 3-1 in the fourth. Shots by Pieres and Nero found the mark, countered only by a beautiful run to goal by Gillian Johnston on one of her stunning gray horses.

The comeback continued for Lechuza in the fifth chukker. Riding a very agile brown mare named Confu (short for Confusion), Pieres used his pony power to score two more goals and tie the match at 7-all. That seemed to have an electric effect on Arellano. He took back the lead for Coca-Cola on a nearside shot to goal – his specialty – to close out the fifth chukker with Coca-Cola clinging to an 8-7 lead.

The Lechuza team was feeling the fire now, and a penalty two conversion by Pieres retied the game at 8-all. After a series of plays at the boards, Nero sent a pass to Pieres at midfield. Pieres had a horse-length lead on his defender and ran the ball straight to goal for the score, the lead and the match.

Lechuza will face Las Monjitas in the 26-goal Les Armour Cup Final at noon on Sunday at the International Polo Club Palm Beach.


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