Wins by Orchard Hill and Valiente set Ylvisaker Cup final
By Alex Webbe
Orchard Hill (Steve Van Andel, Facundo Pieres, Peke Gonzalez and Lucas Criado) got another step closer to winning the 2016 Ylvisaker Cup by defeating Dubai (Rashid Albwardy, Carlos Gracida, Diego Cavanagh and Alejo Taranco) in Sunday’s tournament semifinal game at the International Polo Club. The victory came in overtime by the surprising score of 4-3.
To say it was a defensive battle would be an understatement as the teams played through a scoreless opening chukker. Shots on goal by both sides went wide or were blocked as neither could coordinate an effective offensive punch in the opening minutes of play. At the end of the first chukker the score remained, 0-0.
Goals weren’t any more plentiful in the opening minutes of the second period. There were runs up and down the field and a number of scrums as the players fought off frustration with being unable to put the ball between the goalposts when the few opportunities arose. With 1:10 on the clock Alejo Taranco drove the ball through the Orchard Hill uprights for the first score of the game and a 1-0 Dubai lead.
The teams continued to have trouble scoring in the third. A run down the field would result in a shot going wide or a pass being intercepted and returned up the field. At 4:26 sixteen-year-old Peke Gonzalez scored to level the score for Orchard Hill, 1-1, but the offensive floodgates remained closed. After a number of near goals, Facundo Pieres scored for the first time on the day, giving Orchard Hill a 2-1 halftime lead with less than two minutes on the clock. Dubai was unable to successfully respond and the score at the end of the first half was an amazing 2-1 in favor of Orchard Hill.
A halftime intermission did little to alter the pace of the game. Possession of the ball was fiercely contested but shots on goal continued to go astray. An Orchard Hill foul finally sent Dubai to the penalty line with 5:54 left in the chukker. Diego Cavanagh converted from 30-yards out to level the score at 2-2. At the 3:50 mark Pieres suffered a jarring ride-off that bruised his right knee and forced him to dismount and seek medical attention. Following a brief recess Pieres remounted and the game continued. Neither offense was able to put any points on the scoreboard for the balance of the period and the fourth chukker ended in a 2-2 deadlock.
The unproductive flow of the game continued into the fifth period as both Dubai and Orchard Hill were frustrated with their inability to score for their respective teams. Both Dubai and Orchard Hill had averaged eleven goals per game in four preliminary Ylvisaker Cup matches so the prospect of not being able to combine for eleven goals in a game seemed laughable. Orchard Hill had 10-goaler Facundo Pieres, the Number 2 ranked player in the world, certainly that should count for something, but it didn’t on Sunday, and Pieres wasn’t alone. Everyone was having difficulty scoring and after five chukkers of play the score remained tied at 2-2.
Midway through the sixth chukker Lucas Criado scored on a well-executed belly shot that gave Orchard Hill the lead, 3-2, but the celebration was short-lived. An Orchard Hill foul at 2:24 sent Cavanagh to the 60-yard penalty line where he converted the foul shot to tie the game at 3-3. Both teams rode out the balance of the chukker attempting to break the tie and register the win to no avail. The final horn sounded at the end of regulation time with the score tied signaling an overtime chukker.
Following a brief recess allowing the teams to regroup and return to the field with fresh mounts, play resumed. Dubai made the first run followed by a reversal of direction and an Orchard Hill assault. Deep in Dubai territory Pieres dug the ball out of the side board and raced toward the middle of the field. With an opposing player on his hip Pieres unleashed a neck shot down field to a streaking Gonzalez who took it on the nearside at a full gallop and drove it through the goalposts for the Orchard Hill victory, 4-3.
Gonzalez led the Orchard Hill team with two goals, including the game winner, and earned MVP honors. Pieres and Criado each added a goal for the win. Cavanagh scored twice for Dubai (both on penalty shots) with teammate Taranco adding a goal in the loss.
Wembley was played by Taranco and was selected as Best Playing Pony.
Valiente 13, Palm Beach Illustrated 10
Earlier in the day Valiente (Bob Jornayvaz, Tommy Beresford, Felipe Viana and Adolfo Cambiaso) and Palm Beach Illustrated (Nacho Badiola, Jared Zenni, Facundo Obregon and Jesse Bray) faced one another in the other semifinal of the Ylvisaker Cup after a rain-interrupted game that was suspended after two chukkers. In those two chukkers, Valiente ran up a commanding 6-1 lead before the game was postponed, and the two teams returned to the field four days later to complete the match.
Resuming the game in the third chukker with Valiente on top, 6-1, Palm Beach Illustrated attempted to work their way back into the competition.
Valiente 5-goaler Felipe Viana scored the first goal of the day on a 30-yard penalty shot a minute-and-a-half into the game to extend the Valiente lead to six goals, 7-1. Facundo Obregon responded with a goal from the field a minute later, 7-2. Adolfo Cambiaso converted a 40-yard penalty shot for a goal, 8-2, but Obregon got the last work, scoring his second goal of the day to end the chukker down, 8-3.
Palm Beach Illustrated went to work in the fourth chukker as they picked up single goals from Nacho Badiola, Jesse Bray and Obregon. Cambiaso scored once for Valiente on a penalty conversion. The fourth period ended with Palm Beach Illustrated trailing by three goals, 9-6, with two chukkers left in regulation play.
Obregon opened the fifth chukker with a 30-yard penalty goal, cutting the Valiente lead to two goals, 9-7. Valiente answered back with a pair of goals from Viana (one on a penalty shot) and a goal from Cambiaso, 12-7. Obregon added a goal for Palm Beach Illustrated, with two minutes left in the chukker, 12-8. Viana added a final goal in the waning seconds of the period, restoring the Valiente five goal lead, 13-8.
There was no quit in Palm Beach Illustrated, but time and a five goal lead were on the side of Valiente as the sixth chukker got started. Obregon scored a goal from the field with 5:39 left in the game, 13-9 and converted a 30-yard penalty shot with 12 seconds left to play. Valiente celebrated the 13-10 win and a date in the final against Orchard Hill.
Cambiaso scored seven goals (three on penalty conversions) to lead the Valiente attack. Viana added six goals (four on penalty shots) for the win. Palm Beach Illustrated got a game-high eight goals (five from the field). Badiola and Bray each scored once in a losing effort.