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ATTACHED PHOTOS

Tomas del Rio and Miguel Novillo-Astrada

Miguel Novillo-Astrada and Alfredo Capella

Joaquin Panelo

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Dubai Sails Into Semifinals of U.S. Open; Valiente Advances to Quarterfinals

Written by: Darlene Ricker & Jamie Saults
Client: United States Polo Association http://www.uspolo.org
Release Date: 2016-04-17

Round three of the 112th U.S. Open Polo Championship® featured all four teams in bracket I. Dubai advances to the semifinals after their resounding 14-6 win over White Birch, and Valiente moves on to the quarterfinals after defeating Coca-Cola 11-7.

Dubai set the tone for the day, winning their morning match 14-6 over White Birch. With both teams having come into the game 2-0, Dubai’s win secured their spot in the semifinals.

Dubai demonstrated their resolve early on, seizing the lead in the second chukker with four consecutive goals and shutting out White Birch for the period. Hilario Ulloa, White Birch’s top scorer, switched seamlessly to defense in the second. He strategically positioned himself in front of the goalmouth when he saw Facundo Sola send a pass to Adolfo Cambiaso, who was on a run toward goal. Cambiaso hit a power drive that looked like a sure goal, but Ulloa plucked the ball out of danger on the doorstep. In the third chukker Ulloa scored twice, while Cambiaso and Sola each contributed a goal, ending the first half 7-3 for Dubai.

Working together in tightly calibrated teamwork, every one of Dubai’s players scored by the beginning of the fourth chukker. Alejo Taranco, who has played lockdown defense all season, maintained his tag-team synchronicity with Cambiaso in ball passing and scored twice from the field, once each in the fourth and fifth. Ulloa, a 9-goaler, was injured in the fifth by a ball to the back, and 21-year-old Joaquin Panelo, a 4-goaler, subbed in. With less than a minute left in the chukker, Panelo snatched the ball out of the air and knocked in a goal. Dubai remained steadfast, with Cambiaso telling his teammates not to change anything and keep playing exactly as they had been before the substitution. When the unexpected happens, he said, “Our job is to keep our focus, finish the game, preserve our horses and win it.”

The final chukker opened 12-4 for Dubai. With Cambiaso trying to get the ball to Taranco, Panelo intercepted and sent the ball to Mariano Aguerre, who scored through the posts on a neck shot. Aguerre again got possession of the ball, faking left and darting to the right for a run downfield. He blasted past Sola in a ride-off and took the bouncing ball straight to goal, bringing the score to 12-6 in favor of Dubai. Cambiaso then sent a pass toward Sola, and just when it looked like White Birch was going to break up the play, Sola hit the ball out of the air and fired it straight into goal. His next field goal ended the game 14-6 for Dubai.

It was all or nothing for both teams in the second game of the day, with the winner qualifying for the quarterfinals and the other eliminated from the tournament.

Miguel Novillo Astrada gave Coca-Cola an early lead, but Tomas Garcia del Rio answered with a full-field run to tie the game. With less than a minute left in the first chukker, Gillian Johnston scored to put Coca-Cola back in the lead 2-1. Each team scored once in the second chukker. Johnston prevented Valiente from tying the game with an incredible save to end the chukker and keep her team on top 3-2.

Del Rio and Astrada both scored in the third. Power hitter Alfredo Cappella made an incredible play for Valiente, stealing the ball to tie the game at 4. “Alfredo is such a strong player,” said Santi Torres. “We tried to keep him open and get the ball to him so he could hit it. That’s all you have to do." Del Rio fueled the Valiente momentum in the fourth, scoring on a penalty 2 to put his team in the lead for the first time. Torres carried the ball downfield, giving Valiente a two-goal lead, but then Julio Arellano answered for Coca-Cola to shrink the spread back to one. Cappella slammed in another goal to put Valiente up by two, ending the fourth chukker 7-5.

In the fifth, del Rio scored on another penalty 2 to increase Valiente’s lead 8-5. Coca-Cola started to rally with Johnston scoring from the field. “When you’re marking someone like Gillian, you really have to pay attention to which horse she’s on. She has some very fast horses,” said Jornayvaz. Arellano scored on a penalty 2 to keep Coca-Cola in the running with just a single-goal difference at 8-7. 

With less than a minute left in the fifth, Torres took a hard hit just above his right elbow that looked as though it may sideline him, but he finished out the game. When play resumed, Del Rio scored in the first five seconds, pulling Valiente ahead 9-7.

Out of steam, Coca-Cola was scoreless in the final chukker. Cappella scored on a slick shot from the side, and Torres added to the lead for Valiente with a neck shot with 1:17 left in the game. "The first two games were about what we did wrong,” said Torres. “This game was about what we did right. We played more open than before. We didn’t stop as much and kept it simple.”

With a commanding 11-7 victory over Coca-Cola, Valiente earned the ticket to advance. “We needed this win for our confidence," said patron Bob Jornayvaz. “We finally played our game. We were proactive rather than reactive.” He called the game “physical but clean, which makes it fun.”

At both of Wednesday’s games the sidelines were packed to overflow capacity. ChukkerTV, a partner of the USPA Polo Network, live streamed the games. Continuous live coverage of the 112th U.S. Open Polo Championship® resumes Thursday, April 14. Lucchese plays Audi at 10am ET, and Flexjet opposes Orchard Hill at 4pm ET at IPC.

 

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