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Ezequiel Martinez Ferrario, Facundo Pieres and Pelon Sterling

Sugar Erskine and Polito Pieres

Gillian Johnston, Polito Pieres, Sugar Erskine, Ezequiel Martinez Ferrario, Facundo Pieres, Pelon Sterling and Julio Arellano

Ezequiel Martinez Ferrario, Pelon Sterling, Polito Pieres and Julio Arellano

Adolfo Cambiaso and Juan Martin Nero

Adolfo Cambiaso 3.5.15

Guillermo Terrera, Alejo Taranco, Agustin Garcia Grossi, Nico Pieres

Alejo Taranco

Marc Ganzi, Sterling Giannico, Gonzalito Pieres, Hilario Ulloa and Rodrigo Andrade

Sterling Giannico

Julian Mannix and Rodrigo Andrade

Freddie Mannix and Julian Mannix

Eduardo Astrada and Matias Magrini

Facundo Sola and Matias Magrini.

Jared Zenni and Sebastian Merlos

Facundo Sola and Santi Torres

Click on the above photos for details and a high resolution version.

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Orchard Hill Harvests Another 26-Goal Win; Trumps Coca-Cola 13-12 in USPA Piaget Gold Cup Opener

Written by: Alannah Castro & Darlene Ricker
Client: International Polo Club Palm Beach
Release Date: 2015-03-05

Orchard Hill Harvests Another 26-Goal Win; Trumps Coca-Cola 13-12 in USPA Piaget Gold Cup Opener

The second leg of the 2015 Triple Crown of polo took off in full force Thursday at the International Polo Club Palm Beach, which hosted three of the day’s four matches. In opening day play for the 26-goal USPA Piaget Gold Cup, Orchard Hill defeated Coca-Cola 13-12 and Lechuza Caracas won over Valiente 14-13 (both in overtime). Las Monjitas defeated Engel & Völkers 18-8, and Audi took Alegria 16-13.

Orchard Hill                          Coca-Cola
Steve Van Andel   A               Gillian Johnston   2
Ezequiel Ferrario   7T             Sugar Erskine   6
Polito Pieres   9                     Julio Arellano   8
Facundo Pieres   10               Pelon Sterling   10

After its second consecutive 26-goal win of the season, Steve Van Andel burst into the Orchard Hill tent with big news for the team: “I got the penalty one, so I have to buy dinner tonight!”
Facundo Pieres lobbed a quick comeback: “And I get to pick the place!”

Van Andel, erupting in laughter, surely would have granted Pieres three wishes if he had a genie in a bottle. Who wouldn’t for a teammate who had just scored 10 goals, including the overtime punch that won the match?

The first two chukkers offered not even an inkling that the game would go down to the wire. Other than two points by 10-goaler Pelon Sterling, Coca-Cola was hard-pressed to muster an offense. Orchard Hill ran its opponents ragged for a sustained stretch, making six goals (four of them courtesy of Pieres).

Coca-Cola regrouped and went all-out with its defense. Suddenly it seemed that Sterling had devoted his life to pressuring one Pieres or another (cousins Facundo and Polito Pieres both played for Orchard Hill). Sterling had ample opportunity to do so, as most of the time a Pieres was either running the ball down the field or passing it to his counterpart. As the point spread widened, Sterling ratcheted up the ante. In the middle of the second chukker he tried to fend a determined Polito Pieres off the ball, engaging him in mallet play so intense that announcer Gus Whitelaw quipped, “It sounds like a sword fight out there!” The winner of the duel was Pieres & Co., with Polito Pieres pulling off a tag-team pass to Facundo Pieres, who scored.

A seismic shift happened in the third chukker. With Sterling leading the charge, Coca-Cola decided to make it a contest. In a blaze of red (jerseys, saddle pads and leg wraps), the team racked up three goals and was awarded a fourth as an automatic goal, all the while keeping Orchard Hill scoreless. By the end of the first half, Coca-Cola had gone from trailing by four points to tying the game (6-6). That set the tone for the rest of the match, with Coca-Cola remaining revved on both defense and offense.

Orchard Hill systematically slid back into scoring mode. As Van Andel explained, “Coca-Cola played man-to-man really well, and we had a couple of bad breaks. After that it takes a little while to get your momentum back, and that’s what happened.”

The second half played out like a clip from “Groundhog Day,” with the score ping-ponging from tied to a one- or two-point lead and then back to a tie. The last three chukkers were almost indistinguishable from one another. Each chukker ended in a tie (8-all at the end of the fourth chukker; 9 after the fifth and 12 at the end of the sixth). Both teams scored twice in the fourth (a field goal and a penalty) and three times in the sixth (two field goals and a penalty). Each got a point in the fifth, with Polito Pieres scoring from the field and Coca-Cola being awarded another automatic goal.

Parallels aside, the second half was fraught with nail-biting moments, regardless which team one was rooting for. The sidelines were electric as Gillian Johnston accelerated into going-going-gone on one of her gray speed sticks. Taking a pass from Julio Arellano, she opened her horse up, moving light years ahead of the pack to run the ball into goal. Arellano, meanwhile, took over the Facundo-Polito watch from Sterling, trying mightily to shut down any Pieres passing.

A fired-up Sugar Erskine kept Coca-Cola in the game to the very end. With less than two minutes left in the sixth chukker, he tied the score at 12, where it stood at the end of regulation play. Coca-Cola saw a glimmer of hope when Facundo Pieres’s first shot on goal in overtime went wide, but he didn’t let that stand for long. A whistle on an Erskine play handed the game to back to Orchard Hill, with Facundo Pieres scoring from the line.

The victory was frosting on this season’s winning streak by Orchard Hill, which won the 20-goal Joe Barry Cup in January and clinched the 26-goal C.V. Whitney Cup last Sunday. As Facundo Pieres observed, four days is a very short time between two 26-goal games.

“It’s always hard (playing) the first game of a tournament after winning a tournament,” he said. “It’s hard for everybody to come back. When you win a tournament you’re happy, and sometimes you need a little bit of rest for the horses.” On top of that, he said, Coca-Cola is always a formidable opponent. “We knew this was going to be a tough game, and it was. I think under all those circumstances, we did pretty good beating them.”

Lechuza Caracas Defeats Valiente in Epic Overtime Finish

Lechuza Caracas had the benefit of a little luck and a lot of skill to defeat defending champion Valiente 14-13 in a thrilling sudden death overtime finish in the first round of the USPA Piaget Gold Cup, hosted by the International Polo Club Palm Beach (IPC).

Lechuza Caracas          Valiente                           
Victor Vargas   1            Bob Jornayvaz   2
Nico Pieres   8               Alejo Taranco   6
Juan Martin Nero   10    Guillermo Terrera   8
Agustin Garcia Grossi 7  Adolfo Cambiaso 10

"That was a tough game. Both teams played very well," said a jubilant but exhausted Juan Martin Nero after the match. "We were lucky that Nico made the penalty four (to tie the match at 13-all) and then in the extra chukker I got lucky, very lucky!"

Ten-goaler Nero created his own luck throughout the match, most importantly in the sudden death overtime period when he sent the game-winning goal soaring over the heads of the Valiente defenders from nearly 80 yards out from goal.

The game was spectacular from start to finish. Agustin Garcia Grossi started the scoring off with a beautiful back shot that centered the ball on the goal line for teammate Nico Pieres to tap in. The first half was fast and flowing on the Lechuza Caracas field. The umpires were diligent in calling delay of game penalties when players tapped the ball too often in attempts to slow down the pace, which encouraged the teams to hit passes to teammates and open up the game. As a consequence, almost all the goals in the first half came from the field.

Despite the home field advantage, Lechuza trailed Valiente by a goal heading into halftime. Valiente enjoyed a 6-5 lead behind the hot stick of Guillermo Terrera, who had four first-half goals

Pieres quickly equalized the score after halftime on a neck shot. From then on it was a neck-and-neck race to the finish, with neither team yielding more than a one-goal lead to the other. Both patrons contributed to the scoring in the fifth. First Victor Vargas hit a strong cutshot to goal on the north end, and then Bob Jornayvaz retaliated by following up Adolfo Cambiaso for a goal shot. The teams battled to an even score of 10-all at the end of the fifth chukker.

Cambiaso came out in the sixth on a mission to make things happen. He controlled the play at the boards, and then muscled by the defenders on a speedy horse to send a neckshot to goal. Lechuza countered with a pair of goals from Pieres, only to see Terrara win the subsequent lineup and immediately run to goal to tie the score again at 12-12. With just over a minute remaining, Lechuza fouled and Valiente was awarded a penalty five from midfield. Cambiaso marshaled his troops, gave them their instructions and marched the ball downfield. Nero made the hook on Cambiaso, but Jornayvaz was perfectly positioned to stroke the ball though the goal and give Valiente the lead, 13-12.

As the teams rode back to the lineup, a few spectators started to leave, thinking the game was essentially over. But then disaster struck for Valiente. A costly foul in the bowl-in by the team in blue resulted in a penalty awarded in favor of Lechuza with just seven seconds remaining before the warning horn. The ball was first placed on the center line for a penalty five, but Lechuza challenged. Based on the instant replay, the ball was moved up to the 60-yard line for a penalty four. Pieres walked his horse up to the ball, as calm as if he was practicing on his own farm in Argentina, and sent the ball high and straight through the goal posts to send the game into overtime.

Cambiaso won the first bowl-in of the overtime period, but as he ran to goal the ball took a bad bounce and was backed away by a Lechuza defender. Pieres took possession of the ball and arrowed a pass to Nero. Nero broke the hearts of the Valiente players as he sent a perfect shot to goal to win the match 14-13 for Lechuza.

Instant replay was crucial in the match, especially on the last call for Lechuza that resulted in a penalty four for the team. “That was the first challenge we ever won!” said Nero.

Pieres played a strong game for Lechuza, scoring a game high of 10 goals and sending it into overtime on the key penalty four conversion. What thoughts were running through his mind as he rode his horse up to the ball for the final penalty shot? “I knew I had to put that one in because if not, I had to give a barbecue to Flaco!” he said, referring to teammate Grossi.

Lechuza and Valiente next play on Sunday in the second round of the USPA Piaget Gold Cup at IPC.

Las Monjitas Wins With Authority
Defeats Engel & Völkers 18-8

Las Monjitas defeated Engel & Völkers 18-8 in bracket play in the USPA Piaget Gold Cup at the International Polo Club Palm Beach (IPC).

Engel & Völkers                           Las Monjitas
Jared Zenni   3                              Camilo Bautista   A
Santi Torres   7                             Facundo Sola   8T
Matias Magrini   8                         Sebastian Merlos   9
Kris Kampsen   6                          Eduardo Astrada   9

The match started off with Engel & Völkers in the lead by two points due to their handicap. It quickly took the initiative to increase that lead with Kris Kampsen scoring the first goal on the field from the bowl-in. Kampsen continued to increase the Engel & Völkers lead by converting a penalty shot later in the chukker. Facundo Sola promptly went to work closing the gap, scoring three goals by the end of the first chukker to make the score 4-3.

For the rest of the half, Las Monjitas held a commanding lead. Combining an excellent passing game with an uncanny ability to read plays, Sebastian Merlos racked up four goals. Eduardo Astrada and Sola each scored once, with both frequently assisting Merlos on the way to the goal mouth. Engel & Völkers fought valiantly as Las Monjitas's lead grew. A major defensive effort by his teammates allowed Matias Magrini to drive in a goal during the second chukker. The first half ended 9-5 in favor of Las Monjitas.

Las Monjitas continued its dominance in the fourth chukker. Astrada scored on an assist from Camilo Bautista, and Sola demonstrated his skill from the penalty line to make the score 11-5. Astrada made what was undoubtedly the play of the game, dribbling the ball on bounces before driving it in to goal. An aggressive defensive play by Jared Zenni helped Santi Torres thread the needle to put another point on the scoreboard for Engel & Völkers, making the score 14-6. Torres again wove through traffic for Kampsen to tap the ball through the uprights, ending the fifth chukker 15-7.

Torres made an impressive trick play to start out the sixth chukker, hitting the ball under the belly of the defender's horse as he dodged around him and drove in a goal. Merlos ran the ball in to score, and Astrada added two more goals to his tally by the end of the chukker. Ultimately Las Monjitas sewed up the game 18-8.

Merlos credited his team's strategy and increased time playing together for its success.

"It was a very tough beginning. We knew they were going to be very alert and ready, so it was very important to win the ball at the throw-ins," said Merlos. "Our horses went great, and I think we took advantage of that. I'm very comfortable with the team. We are starting to know each other. Obviously we always need to fix little mistakes, but since our first match we are a much better team."
Play continues Sunday at IPC at 10 a.m., with Alegria Assist Card taking on Las Monjitas and Audi playing Engel & Völkers. Coca-Cola will battle it out with Lechuza Caracas at noon, and Orchard Hill will take on Valiente in what promises to be a spectacular feature match at 3 p.m.

Audi Calls The Shots, Defeats Alegria Assist Card 16-13

Audi defeated Alegria Assist Card 16-13 in bracket play in the USPA Piaget Gold Cup at the International Polo Club Palm Beach.

Audi                               Alegria Assist Card
Marc Ganzi   1               Julian Mannix   4
Rodrigo Andrade   9       Hilario Ulloa   9
Gonzalito Pieres   9        Mariano Aguerre   9
Fred Mannix   6              Sterling Giannico   4

The match took off to a running start with Fred Mannix exploding into a gallop out of the throw-in to drive in a goal and make the score 2-0 (with Audi's one-goal handicap). Gonzalito Pieres demonstrated his penalty shooting prowess by sinking two shots in a row. Alegria Assist Card fired back with three goals, narrowing Audi's lead to one point. Pieres and Rodrigo Andrade added more goals to Audi's tally, ending the first chukker 6-3 for Audi.

Alegria Assist Card was "snake-bit," as announcer Toby Wayman called it, in the second chukker with several penalty shots going wide. Andrade drove a long pass downfield for Marc Ganzi, who finished the job and made the score 7-3. Fred Mannix flipped another goal in for Audi. The rest of the chukker proved thrilling as both teams fought to assert dominance in ride-off after ride-off at a wide-open pace.

Pieres continued his hot streak from the penalty line, racking up three more conversions in the third chukker. Alegria Assist Card gained two goals from the field, making the score 11-6 at the half. In the fourth chukker Pieres was the driving force for the Audi team, completing a penalty conversion and assisting Andrade on a goal to make the score 13-6. Hilario Ulloa converted two penalty shots in the fourth and fifth chukkers to make some headway against Audi's lead.

Andrade picked up a goal as the fifth chukker continued to showcase the athleticism of horses and players in high-octane ride-offs. Julian Mannix made a remarkable play, picking up Ganzi's backshot to score for Alegria Assist Card. Andrade shot an impressive cut shot to end the chukker 15-9.

Alegria Assist Card was awarded a penalty one to make the score 15-10 in the sixth chukker. Julian Mannix led the charge in the Alegria Assist Card comeback, converting to bring his team within three points of Audi. Ulloa dodged defenders to drive the ball in for a goal. Andrade made the final goal of the match off the goal post to end the chukker 16-13.

Ganzi said he felt his team's strategy going into the match paid off in its success. "We had a really outstanding first half, and we set the tone early. We were prepared to match their physicality, and I think they were surprised by that," said Ganzi. "We're not really known as a physical team, and today we were extremely physical. They're such a good team, and we have a lot of respect for them."
Pieres concurred with regard to strategy. "We knew it was really important for us to win this game, and we came with a good strategy," he said. "I think we won this game in the first five chukkers."

Play continues Sunday at IPC at 10 a.m., with Alegria Assist Card taking on Las Monjitas and Audi playing Engel & Völkers. Coca-Cola will battle it out with Lechuza Caracas at noon, and Orchard Hill will take on Valiente in what promises to be a spectacular feature match at 3 p.m.


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