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Press Release


Facundo Pieres and Tincho Merlos

Juan Martin Nero

Sapo Caset and Freddie Mannix

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Orchard Hill and Audi Take Wins in third round of U.S. Open

Written by: Darlene Ricker & Jamie Saults
Client: United States Polo Association
Release Date: 2016-04-17

WELLINGTON, Fla. – April 15, 2016 – Orchard Hill defeated Flexjet 14-8 and Audi edged by Lucchese 8-7 in the third round of bracket play in the 112th U.S. Open Polo Championship® at the International Polo Club Palm Beach (IPC). Orchard Hill goes to the semifinals, while Audi and Lucchese advance to the quarterfinals.

The game had Orchard Hill written all over it from the start, marked by a series of seamless setups between 10-goalers Facundo Pieres and Juan Martin Nero (who scored three goals collectively in the first chukker). Orchard Hill’s early dominance grew incrementally for the first two chukkers, ending the second with a 5-2 lead. They poured it on in the third, which was their highest-scoring chukker with four goals. Julian de Lusarreta swooped in for a superb steal and blasted off on a 180-yard breakaway, stretching Orchard Hill’s lead 8-3. Nero topped it off with a field goal to close the third.

The Merlos brothers got amped up in the third and fourth, each drawing yellow cards. In the fourth chukker Pieres sent a long drive to Orchard Hill patron Steve Van Andel, who accelerated into a race toward goal with Agustin Merlos. Merlos got a second yellow card, which benched him for two minutes that lasted for the remainder of the fourth chukker and the first 49 seconds of the fifth.

A struggling Flexjet never gave up. Agustin Merlos led the Flexjet charge, scoring in every chukker and making all but one of his six goals from the penalty line. Game high-scorer Pieres paralleled that for Orchard Hill with seven goals, one of them from the field. Flexjet’s Melissa Ganzi made her team’s other goal on a penalty 2, the last goal of the game. Flexjet kept Orchard Hill scoreless in the final chukker. 

“We had a bye into the semis, so for us that meant we could relax today, and I think it made a world of difference,” said Van Andel. “Everybody was able to think about the game without getting too concerned about all the specifics of it. Our team flowed beautifully. It seemed like every time we hit, the other person was there; every time we turned, somebody was on the b all. That’s how it goes sometimes. Today was our day.”

In a game that remained tight all the way through, 10-goaler Sapo Caset kicked off the scoring three minutes into play. Nico Pieres followed up, putting Lucchese ahead 2-0. Fred Mannix got Audi on the board with 54 seconds left on the clock. In the second chukker Rodrigo Andrade was the only player to score, tying the game at 2. In the third, Lucchese remained scoreless while Audi made two consecutive goals. Mannix made a run down the field, and Gonzalo Pieres picked up the ball and sent it high through the posts for a 3-2 Audi lead. With only 41 seconds left on the clock, Rodrigo Andrade walked the ball over the goal line to end the first half 4-2 for Audi.

The second half got off to a slow start, with no goals in the first several minutes. Gonzalo Pieres scored the first goal on a penalty 4 to increase Audi’s spread to 5-2. Nico Pieres and Caset each scored from the field for Lucchese, narrowing the gap to 5-4. Nico Pieres took advantage of a miscued ball, slamming it through the posts to tie the game briefly at 5 in the fifth. With 18 seconds left on the clock, Gonzalo Pieres answered, putting Audi on top again at 6-5.

Audi’s strategy, said Mannix, was “to not give any free penalties because Sapo can hit all the penalties like a 10-goaler.” In the final chukker Caset scored on a penalty 2 and then from the field to take Lucchese from a shortfall into the lead 7-6. That gave Caset four goals total for Lucchese, all but one from the field. Audi made a final push. Gonzalo Pieres scored on a penalty 3 to retie the game at 7, and then Ganzi sealed the victory for Audi 8-7 in the last few seconds of the game.

“It’s tough to play a game like this when both teams know that they qualified,” said Ganzi. “In the back of their minds both teams want to continue to win—nobody likes to lose.” Describing the match as “very defensive,” he added, “Lucchese is probably the best defensive team here. Every team has a player that the system feeds through, and with this team it’s Sapo. He is so dynamic that you have to make sure that when he makes that first tap you control him because if he gets through you, he is gone, just a memory.”

The games were live streamed by, a partner of the USPA Polo Network. Continuous live coverage of the 112th U.S. Open Polo Championship® resumes Sunday with two quarterfinal games at IPC. White Birch and Lucchese face off at 12:00pm, and Audi opposes Valiente at 3:00 pm. All times are in ET.


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