By Alex Webbe
Orchard Hill (Steve Van Andel, Facundo Pieres, Polito Pieres and Julián de Lusarreta) recorded a 12-9 win over Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, Nic Roldan, Tincho Merlos, Sebastian Merlos) Sunday afternoon in the quarterfinals of the 2016 USPA Gold cup at the International Polo Club in what would prove to be a very costly exercise.
After a brief delay at the start of the game, Argentine 10-goaler Facundo Pieres withdrew from the lineup unable to compete due to a fractured finger on his mallet hand that was suffered in Orchard Hill’s last game. Nine-goaler Hilario Ulloa took his place on the field and the game got started.
Opening goals from Ulloa and Polito Pieres went unanswered as Orchard Hill took the early lead, 2-0. Agustin Merlos finally got Flexjet on the scoreboard with a 40-yard penalty goal, 2-1. The Orchard Hill team went on a tear with Ulloa scoring on consecutive penalty shots to make it 4-1. Pieres scored on a drop pass from de Lusarreta and Ulloa added a final penalty goal to end the period with Orchard Hill in command, 6-1.
Two more goals in the third period went unanswered as Orchard Hill continued to dominate play on the field. Pieres scored at the 6:16 mark with Ulloa scoring the final goal for a powerful 8-1 halftime lead. During the course of the period, Pieres had a horse slip out from underneath him, throwing him to the ground where he sustained an injury to his shoulder (a suspected separation) and was forced to resign from the game. Lucas Criado was brought in and the game played on.
Orchard Hill had entered the game with two of the world’s top players in 10-goalers Facundo Pieres and Polito Pieres, but had lost the services of both of them before the end of the first half.
Ulloa scored the first goal of the second half on a 30-yard penalty conversion. Flexjet responded with a pair of goals from Agustin Merlos (one on a penalty conversion) and a goal from the field from Sebastian Merlos. After four chukkers of play Orchard Hill led by five goals, 9-4.
Ulloa’s seventh goal of the day stretched the Orchard Hill lead to 10-4, but Flexjet stormed back into the game. A pair of goals from Agustin Merlos had Flexjet within four goals of the lead, 10-6. Julián de Lusarreta scored the final goal of the chukker from the field and Orchard Hill rode off the field on top of an 11-6 advantage.
Nic Roldan scored three goals for Flexjet in the final minutes of play while holding Orchard Hill to a single score from Lucas Criado. The 12-9 win sends Orchard Hill to the tournament semifinals on Wednesday where they will face Audi (Marc Ganzi, Rodrigo Andrade, Gonzalito Pieres and Nic Roldan) in a 4pm match.
Coca-Cola 11, Lucchese 8
In the second USPA 26-goal USPA Gold Cup quarterfinal game of the day it was Coca-Cola over Lucchese in a close-cut match that Coca-Cola blew open in the fifth chukker on their way to 11-8 win.
Coca-Cola’s Julio Arellano scored the first goal of the day followed by a pair of goals from Nico Pieres, 2-1. Sapo Caset added two more goals to the Lucchese total (one on a penalty conversion), 4-1. Team captain Gillian Johnston scored on a pass from Arellano that cut the Lucchese lead down to two goals, 4-2.
A defensively-oriented second period was scoreless for the first six minutes before Miguel Astrada scored from the field for the only goal of the chukker. After two periods of play, Lucchese was defending a 4-3, one goal lead.
Coca-Cola took control of the third chukker. A disciplined defensive effort that shutout the Lucchese attack was complimented by goals from Arellano and Johnston. At the end of the first half it was Coca-Cola on top, 5-4.
Caset and Arellano exchanged goals in the fourth period. Each scored a goal from the field and a goal on a penalty shot. Coca-Cola successfully defended their one goal lead, leaving the field with a 7-6 advantage. Johnston and Arellano scored the first two goals of the fifth period for a three goal, 9-6 lead. Pieres scored his third goal of the game but a 60-yard penalty conversion from Arellano had Coca-Cola in front by three goals, 10-7.
Goals were scarce in the sixth chukker and with 3:02 left to play, Johnston scored her fourth goal of the day and put Coca-Cola in the lead, 11-7. Caset scored Lucchese’s final goal of the game on a 60-yard penalty shot with less than a minute on the clock as Coca-Cola celebrated their 11-8 win and a berth in Wednesday’s tournament semifinal against Dubai (Rashid Albwardy, Adolfo Cambiaso, Facundo Sola and Alejo Taranco).
Johnston was named MVP for her efforts while Miguel Astrada’s horse, One, earned Best Playing Pony honors.