By Alex Webbe
After the end of the second round of play in the 2014 Maserati US Open Championships, a couple of favorites have begun to emerge. Valiente (2-0) iced a spot at the top of the leader board in their bracket with Saturday’s 14-11 win over Orchard Hill while Alegria (Julian Mannix, Clemente Zavaleta, Mariano Aguerre and Hilario Ulloa) scored their second consecutive win (7-6) over Flight Options (Melissa Ganzi, Eduardo Astrada, Miguel Astrada and Alejandro Astrada) to remain the only other undefeated team in Open play at 2-0.
In Sunday’s feature match at the International Polo Club, Alegria fended off a late Flight Options rally to score a 7-6 win in the 2014 Maserati US Open Championship, and remain unbeaten.
Hilario Ulloa converted a 60-yard penalty shot a minute-and-a-half into the opening chukker, 1-0. Miguel Astrada answered with a 30-yard penalty goal just two minutes later, 1-1. Julian Mannix put Alegria ahead 2-1, with his first goal of the game. Goals from Alejandro Astrada and his older brother Miguel Astrada ended the period with flight Options on the winning end of a 3-2 score.
Miguel Astrada and Ulloa traded penalty goals in the opening minutes of the second, 4-3. Mariano Aguerre tied it at 4-4 with 3:17 left in the chukker. Ulloa scored the final goal of the chukker at the 1:20 mark to give Alegria the lead, 5-4.
Julian Mannix blocked a penalty attempt by Flight Options by tapping the ball out of the air and then galloping 260 yards down the field for a goal, 6-4. Alejandro Astrada cut the Audi lead back to a single goal, 6-5, with a goal from the field at 2:13. The chukker ended with Audi in possession of a 6-5, halftime advantage.
Goals were scarce in the fifth with Mannix scoring the only goal of the chukker on a 90-yard angle shot for a goal, 7-5. With once chukker remaining, Alegria was on top, 7-5.
Both defenses turned in stellar performances in the final seven minutes of the game, with Alejandro Astrada cutting the Audi lead back to a single goal, 7-6, with five minutes left to play. Flight Options pressed the attack but the Alegria defense held. Alegria recorded their second consecutive win, 7-6.
Mannix and Ulloa scored three goals apiece. Aguerre added a goal for the win. Miguel Astrada and Alejandro Astrada scored three goals each in the Flight Options loss.
Mannix earned MVP honors by his voracious offensive efforts and a solid defensive performance. Miguel Astrada’s Arroba Digital was named Best Playing Pony.
AUDI 11, COCA-COLA 10
Audi (Marc Ganzi, Gonzalito Pieres, Rodrigo Andrade and Gonzalo Del Tour) kept their US Open hopes alive earlier in the day by holding on to beat Coca-Cola (Gillian Johnston, Sebastian Merlos, Julio Arellano and Facundo Obregon), 11-10. The victory evens the Audi record at 1-1, with Coca-Cola (1-1) losing their first game of the tournament.
Gonzalito Pieres scored the first goal of the game on a 40-yard penalty shot in the opening 30 seconds of the game, 1-0. Teammate Rodrigo Andrade took a knock-in from Pieres end-to-end at 4:38 to make it 2-0. Sebastian Merlos responded for Coca-Cola, taking the ensuing throw-in and racing 150 yards downfield for a goal, 2-1. Pieres converted a 60-yard penalty shot for a goal and a 3-1 lead with 3:10 left in the chukker. With just over a minute on the clock, an Audi foul sent Merlos to the penalty line where he converted a 60-yarder for a goal, 3-2. A final rush from Pieres racked up a closing goal for Audi with 42 seconds left in the period. Audi left the field with a 4-2 edge.
The pace continued to escalate in the second with Merlos scoring on a 60-yard penalty shot just 16 seconds into the chukker, 4-3. A second goal from the field from Merlos tied it at 4-4 less than a minute later. Audi team captain Marc Ganzi scored a go-ahead goal at 2:39, and Pieres converted a 30-yard penalty shot to end the period with Audi on top, 6-4.
Defenses tightened up in the third, but the Audi attack was unfazed. Goals from Andrade and Pieres went unanswered as Audi rode off the field at the end of the first half with a comfortable 8-4 advantage.
Julio Arellano cut into the Audi lead with an early penalty conversion in the fourth, 8-5. Three minutes later Andrade scored his third goal of the game to put Audi ahead, 9-5. Merlos converted a 60-yard Safety for Coca-Cola, 9-6, but single goals from Ganzi and Pieres (40-yard penalty conversion) ended the period with Audi holding a commanding 11-6 lead.
Coca-Cola staged a fifth chukker rally, scoring three goals (two from Gillian Johnston and a penalty goal from Arellano) that went unanswered, cutting the Audi lead to two goals, 11-9.
Coca-Cola continued to press in the sixth, picking up a goal (Penalty 1) in the first 18 seconds of play to come within a goal of the lead, 11-10, when the Audi defense showed up. Masterful backhanders and defensive plays by Andrade and Pieres set the pace for Audi as they stopped the Coca-Cola momentum and crushed the rally. Audi rode out the final seconds of the game before celebrating the 11-10 victory.
Pieres scored six times (four penalty goals). Andrade was credited with three goals and Ganzi scored twice for the win. Merlos scored three of his team-high five goals on penalty shots. Johnston and Arellano scored two goals apiece, and the team was awarded one goal on a Penalty 1.
Maserati US Open action picks up again on Wednesday, April 9 with Valiente (Bob Jornayvaz, Santi Torres, Sapo Caset and Adolfo Cambiaso) facing Crab Orchard (Peke Gonzalez, Magoo Laprida, Facundo Pieres and Paco de Narvaez) at 1PM followed by a 4PM contest between Lechuza Caracas (Victor Vargas, Nico Pieres, Juan Martin Nero and Nico Espain) and Orchard Hill (Steve Van Andel, Santiago Chavanne, Pablo MacDonough and Matias MacDonough).