By Alex Webbe
Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Miguel Novillo Astrada and Nic Roldan) rallied from a five goal deficit to score a 13-11 win over a powerful Villa Del Lago team (Jim Zenni, Agustin Obregon, Polito Pieres and Julian de Lusarreta) Sunday afternoon in the final of the 20-goal Herbie Pennell Cup at the International Polo Club.
Casablanca made their way to the final by defeating Coca-Cola (Gillian Johnston, Kris Kampsen, Julio Arellano and Mason Wroe) n Friday in semifinal action, 14-6. Villa Del Lago had a more difficult time of it as they edged Lechuza Caracas (Victor Vargas, Marcos Alberdi, Juan Martin Nero and Martin Espain, 10-8.
Villa Del Lago struck early, with 9-goaler Polito Pieres taking the opening throw-in 150 yards down the field for the first goal of the game, 1-0. It was nearly five minutes before another goal was scored as Nic Roldan tied it with a shot from the field, 1-1.Roldan’s second goal came less than a minute later, putting Casablanca on top, 2-1. Consecutive goals from Pieres (one on a 60-yard penalty conversion) ended the first chukker with Villa Del Lago leading, 3-2.
A second period infraction by Villa Del Lago sent Miguel Novillo Astrada to the foul line where he scored on a 40-yard penalty shot to tie the game at3-3. A pair of goals from Agustin Obregon and another goal from Pieres ended the chukker with Villa Del Lago in command of a 6-3 game.
Pieres made it 7-3 in the opening minute of the third chukker as he carried the ball down the field with Casablanca’s Astrada on his hip. Juancito Bollini passed the ball to Astrada and then rode a man out of the play to allow his teammate to score, cutting the Villa Del Lago lead back to three goals, 7-4. Obregon scored on a pass from Pieres with 3:25 left in the period, and Pieres scored his sixth goal of the day for a 9-4 advantage. Astrada answered back with a goal for Casablanca with 45 seconds on the clock but it was Villa Del Lago with the 9-5 halftime lead.
Casablanca returned to the field in the fourth chukker with a new look. A swarming defense kept Villa Del Lago off the scoreboard for the first time all day as Casablanca picked up a goal from Juancito Bollini and a pair of goals from Astrada. With two chukkers to play Casablanca had cut the lead to a single goal, 9-8.
Both defenses tightened in the fifth period with all three goals being scored from the penalty line. Roldan and Pieres traded 30-yard penalty goals, with Astrada converting from 60-yards out for the final goal of the period and a 10-10 tie.
Julian de Lusarreta left the ball on the field for a pouncing Astrada in the opening minute of the sixth as the 9-goal Argentine carried it down the field for a go-ahead goal for Casablanca, 11-10. Ninety seconds later Roldan scored to put Casablanca ahead by two goals, 12-10. Pieres rallied for a goal with three minutes left to bring Villa Del Lago to within a goal, 12-11, but a final goal from Astrada at the 1:24 mark ended the threat as Casablanca registered a 13-11 win in the opening high-goal tournament of the 2015 season.
“We weren’t marking Polito (Pieres) in the first half,” said Casablanca 8-goaler Nic Roldan. “We were playing too loose, and whenever we had the ball we gave it away.”
The team made the adjustments at halftime and came back with a renewed focus.
“I chewed them out at halftime,” said Marc Ganzi, father of Casablanca’s Grant Ganzi and captain of the Audi polo team. “I told Miguel (Astrada) to put Nic (Roldan) on Polito in the second half, and it paid off.”
In the final three chukkers of the game, Pieres was held to just two goals, one of them on a penalty shot with Roldan shadowing him for the second half, and separating him from the pack.
Pieres had scored six goals in the first half but was held to just a pair of goals in the second half (one on a penalty shot), as the Casablanca team rode on for the victory and the first tournament title of the young season.
Astrada led the Casablanca attack with eight goals (two on penalty shots), and was named MVP for his efforts. His mare, Paulina, received Best Play Pony honors. Roldan added four goals and Bollini scored once for the win. Pieres scored eight times for Villa Del Lago (twice on penalty shots), with Obregon getting credited with three goals on the day.
Coca-Cola 12, Lechuza Caracas 11
Earlier in the day Coca-Cola avenged their Friday loss to Casablanca by scoring a 12-11 win over Lechuza Caracas in a 20-goal consolation match.
American 8-goaler Julio Arellano got Coca-Cola on the scoreboard first with a goal from the field for the opening goal of the game. Lechuza Caracas paid no attention, however, scoring three straight goals for the early 3-1lead.Argentine 10-goaler Juan Martin Nero tied the game with a goal from the field at the five minute mark and converted a 60-yard penalty shot less than a minute later to put Lechuza Caracas in the lead, 2-1. A fine effort by Marcos Alberdi stretched the lead to two goals, 3-1, with a goal from the field that ended the first period.
Goals from Coca-Cola’s Kris Kampsen and Gillian Johnston tied it at 3-3 in the opening two minutes of the second. Alberdi and Johnston traded goals in the final three minutes to end the chukker in a 4-4 deadlock.
The third period belonged to Lechuza Caracas as they ran all over Coca-Cola. Nero opened the scoring with a 60-yard penalty shot followed by goals from Martin Espain and Victor Vargas. Nero closed out the scoring with his second goal of the chukker for an 8-4 halftime lead.
Coca-Cola rallied in the fourth behind opening goals from Kampsen and Arellano (30-yard penalty conversion) to cut the lead to two goals, 8-6. Nero and Arellano exchanged penalty goals to end the chukker with Lechuza Caracas sitting on top of a 9-7 score.
Nero scored the first goal of the fifth chukker at the 4:38 mark for a 10-7advantage. Lechuza Caracas team captain Vargas took the ensuing throw-in and raced down the field to score his second goal of the day for a four goal, 11-7 lead. Lechuza Caracas fouls allowed Coca-Cola to get back into the game with penalty conversions from Arellano from both the 30 and 60-yard lines. With one chukker remaining in regulation play, Lechuza Caracas remained in the lead, 11-9.
Arellano cut the Lechuza Caracas lead to a single goal with a score at the 6:10 mark of the sixth chukker. The two teams battled up and down the field until Mason Wroe broke loose with the ball to tie it up with two minutes and thirty-seven seconds on the clock. With neither team able to score, the game was forced into sudden-death overtime.
After a ten minute intermission, both teams returned to the field to resume play, but the momentum seemed to belong to Coca-Cola. With less than a minute off the clock, Johnston broke loose with the ball and scored the winning goal for a 12-11 Coca-Cola victory.
Arellano set the pace for the Coca-Cola attack with six goals (three on penalty conversions). Johnston scored three times, including the winning goal; Kampsen was credited with two goals and Wroe scored once for the win. Nero scored four of his team high six goals on penalty shots. Vargas and Alberdi scored two goals apiece. Espain scored once.