By Alex Webbe

While Coca-Cola (Gillian Johnston, Julian de Lusarreta, Julio Arellano and Miguel Astrada) was celebrating their first return to the final of the USPA Gold Cup since 2000 with an 11-10 overtime win over Orchard Hill (Polito Pieres, Juan Chavanne, Facundo Pieres and Steve Van Andel), Valiente (Bob Jornayvaz, Matias Torres Zavaleta, Diego Cavanagh and Adolfo Cambiaso) was staying on track for a run at the Triple Crown (C. V. Whitney Cup, USPA Gold Cup and the US Open) with a convincing 12-8 win over Audi Wednesday afternoon at the International Polo Club.

Orchard Hill took the field in the first USPA Gold Cup semifinal of the day with a pair of 110-goalers in Facundo Pieres and his cousin Polito Pieres, and appeared to be unstoppable. A 60-yard penalty goal from Facundo Pieres was followed by a goal from the field from Polito Pieres as Orchard Hill raced out to an early 2-0 lead.

Julio Arellano

Coca-Cola got on the scoreboard with a pair of goals from Julian de Lusarreta in the second. A goal from Facundo Pieres kept Orchard Hill on top, 3-2.

Orchard Hill rang up third period goals from Jota Chavanne, Polito Pieres and Facundo Pieres while holding Coca-Cola to a single goal from Miguel Novillo Astrada. At the end of the first half Orchard Hill had extended its lead to three goals, 6-3.

Coca-Cola regrouped at halftime and returned to the field a new team. American 8-goaler Julio Arellano scored twice (once on a 40-yard penalty shot) and de Lusarreta added his third goal of the game. The Coca-Cola defenders shut down the powerful Orchard Hill attack, tying the game at 6-6.

Orchard Hill bounced back in the fourth, scoring the first three goals of the chukker (a 40-yard penalty conversion from Facundo Peres and two goals from the field from Polito Pieres. Coca-Cola responded with a single goal from Arellano and trailed, 9-7, with one period remaining in the game.

Julian Delusarreta

Facundo Pieres stretched the Orchard Hill lead to three goals, 10-7, with the opening score if the sixth chukker and just 5:15 left in regulation play. Astrada’s second goal of the game started a rally that was followed by goals from Arellano and de Lusarreta. The score was tied at 10 goals apiece, forcing the game into a sudden-death overtime chukker.

After a brief intermission, play continued with Coca-Cola on the attack. An Orchard Hill foul in the opening seconds of the period resulted in a 60-yard penalty shot being awarded to Coca-Cola, putting Arellano on the penalty line. The shot was blistered along the ground and appeared to be going wide of the goal when a backhander by de Lusarreta redirected the ball through the goalposts for the winning goal, 11-10.

Five goals from de Lusarreta led the Coca-Cola attack. Arellano scored four times (once on a penalty shot) and Astrada added two goals for the victory. Facundo Pieres scored three of his team-high five goals from the field. Polito Pieres added four goals and Chavanne scored once in the loss.

Valiente 12, Audi 8

In the second USPA Gold Cup semifinal of the day, Valiente (Bob Jornayvaz, Matias Torres Zavaleta, Diego Cavanagh and Adolfo Cambiaso) sent Audi (Marc Ganzi, Tomas Pieres, Gonzalito Pieres and Rodrigo Andrade) packing on the tail end of a 12-8 whipping.

Adolfo Cambiaso

Audi stayed close in the first half, trailing by a single goal, 6-5, at the end of the first three chukkers, but the Valiente attack was too much for them in the end.

A 3-1 fourth chukker had Valiente on top, 9-6, and coasting to the 12-8 win.

Diego Cavanagh

Valiente 8-goaler Diego Cavanagh scored seven of his game-high 11 goals on penalty conversions. Adolfo Cambiaso, the top ranked player in the world directed the Valiente attack and added a goal of his own for the victory. Gonzalito Pieres (brother to Facundo and cousin to Polito) scored half of his six goals from the penalty line. Rodrigo Andrade and Tomas Pieres (another Pieres cousin) each scored once in the Audi effort.

The win boosts Valiente into the tournament final against Coca-Cola at 3pm on Sunday, March 26th at the International Polo Club.
Photos by Alex Pacheco