Two games decided in overtime and the other by a single goal illustrated the parity of the teams competing in the 2015 United States Open Championship at the International Polo Club in Sunday competition.
The feature match of the day saw Lechuza Caracas (Victor Vargas, Agustin Garcia Grossi, Nico Pieres and Juan Martin Nero) recover from a 6-5 halftime deficit to score a 13-12 win over the defending US Open Champion Alegria polo team (Julian Mannix, Hilario Ulloa, Mariano Aguerre and Sterling Giannico) on a penalty conversion from Agustin Garcia Grossi two-and-one-half minutes into sudden-death overtime.
A minute into the game, Alegria team captain Julian Mannix converted a 30-yard penalty shot for a goal and the 1-0 lead. Nico Pieres responded with a goal from the field for Lechuza minute later, 1-1. Mannix added another goal at the 3:15 mark, 2-1, followed by a 40-yard penalty shot for a goal from Hilario Ulloa, 3-1. An Alegria foul in the final minute of the opening chukker sent Pieres to the penalty line where he scored on a 30-yard shot, cutting the Alegria lead to a single goal, 3-2.
Goals were hard to come by in the second period with ride-offs and backhanders turning aside shots on goal by both sides. Three minutes into the period, Pieres scored from the field to tie the game at 3-3.
Ulloa opened the third chukker with a goal from the field just 25 seconds into play, giving Alegria the 4-3 edge. Pieres scored his fourth goal of the game two minutes later to level the score at 4-4. Agustin Garcia Grossi scored on a well-executed pass from Pieres to give the lead to Lechuza, 5-4. Alegria got consecutive goals from Ulloa–a goal from the field and a 30-yard penalty shot– to end the first half with Alegria back in the lead, 6-5.
Alegria and Lechuza traded goals in the fourth chukker. Ulloa scored the first goal of the chukker at the 4:46 mark with Pieres taking advantage of a well-placed pass from Juan Martin Nero three minutes later. Alegria continued to lead at the end of the chukker, 7-6.
Lechuza got it on track in the fifth period as Alegria got single goals from Ulloa and Sterling Giannico. Three goals from Pieres (one on a 60-yard penalty conversion) and a goal from team captain Victor Vargas had Lechuza in front, 10-9.
Alegria opened the sixth period with a penalty goal from Ulloa, tying it at 10-10. Lechuza countered with goals from Grossi and Pieres (a 30-yard penalty goal), 12-10.Alegria was awarded a goal on a Penalty 1 called against Lechuza, 12-11, with 2:38 left on the clock, and added a goal on a penalty shot from Ulloa for the final goal of the chukker, deadlocking it at 12-12 and forcing sudden-death overtime.
After a brief intermission both teams returned to the field for a throw-in to start the overtime. Lechuza and Alegria battled for possession of the ball, with Lechuza picking it up and charging toward the Alegria goal. An Alegria foul occurred 52 seconds into the overtime chukker, sending Pieres to the penalty line for a 30-yard shot at goal. To the amazement of all present, Pieres pushed the ball wide of the goal post and play continued. Lechuza regained possession of the ball once again and pressed the attack. Another Alegria foul gave Lechuza another chance to end it. Facing their second 30-yard penalty attempt in less than two minutes, Grossi was assigned the task of converting the shot, which he did, 13-12, two minutes and 24 seconds into the overtime period.
Pieres scored a game high nine goals for Lechuza (three on penalty conversions). Grossi scored three times and Vargas added a goal for the win. Half of Ulloa’s eight goals came on penalty shots. Mannix added two goals; Giannico scored once and the team was awarded one goal on a Penalty 1.
Orchard Hill 15, Valiente 14 OT
In an earlier match, Orchard Hill (Steve Van Andel, Gallego Ferrario, Polito Pieres and Facundo Pieres) needed an overtime chukker to score the winning goal in a hard-fought, 15-14 win against Valiente in US Open competition.
In what was expected to be a shoot-out between the top two rated players in the game today, Valiente 10-goaler Adolfo Cambiaso and orchard Hill 10-goaler Facundo Pieres, the game saw Cambiaso leave in the opening seconds of the match and the balance of the game governed more by the umpires whistles than by the play of Cambiaso and Facundo Pieres.
It’s rare that a team can lose a 10-goal player (there only nine of them in the world today) and be able to replace him with one, but that was the case on Sunday afternoon. With the injured Cambiaso leaving the field, Jornayvaz called on Sapo Caset to fill in for his injured teammate, and the game continued.
Facundo Pieres opened the scoring with a 60-yard penalty conversion, 1-0. Valiente responded with a goal from the field from Alejo Taranco and a 60-yard penalty goal from Sapo Caset. Valiente left the field without their field general (Cambiaso) but on top of a 2-1 score.
A pair of penalty goals from Facundo Pieres was answered by a goal from the field from Guillermo Taranco and an 80-yard penalty goal (Penalty 5) to maintain the one goal lead, 4-3.
In the third chukker the pace quickened. Once again the two teams traded goals. Orchard Hill picked up goals from Polito Peres, Facundo Pieres and Gallego Ferrario. Valiente answered back with goals from Alejo Taranco, Bob Jornayvaz and Guillermo Terrera. At the end of the first half, Valiente trailed by a single goal, 7-6.
Orchard Hill stormed back in a foul riddled fourth chukker on three goals from Facundo Pieres (two on penalty conversions). Valiente answered back with a 30-yard penalty conversion from Caset and a goal from the field from Taranco. After four chukkers of play the game was all even at 9-9.
The umpire’s whistles continued to blow in the fifth period (nine penalties), and Orchard Hill cashed in on them. Facundo Pieres converted two 60-yard penalty shots for goals and added a 40-yarder as well. Polito Pieres added a goal from the field as Orchard Hill moved in front, 13-10. Valiente managed a single penalty goal from Caset (who missed a 60-yard attempt).
Seven more fouls were called in the sixth period with Valiente making up some much needed ground. An Orchard Hill foul in their own goal mouth resulted in a Penalty 1, awarding Valiente an automatic goal and a throw-in 15-yards in front of the Orchard hill goal. Caset made the most of the opportunity, scoring a second goal in the space of just ten seconds and cutting the Orchard Hill lead down to a single goal, 13-12. Facundo Pieres stretched the Orchard Hill lead back to two goals with a 60-yard penalty conversion at the 4:25 mark, but Valiente continued to press the attack. Consecutive penalty goals from Caset at 1:42 and :50 tied the game at 14-14, forcing sudden-death overtime.
After a brief intermission, both teams returned to the field where Facundo Pieres took control of the ensuing throw-in and raced down the field to score the winning goal, 15-14, with just 22 seconds off the clock.
Facundo Pieres scored ten of his game high 12 goals on penalty conversions. Polito Pieres added two goals and Gallego Ferrario scored once for the win. Caset’s seven goals (six on penalty shots) set the pace for Valiente. Taranco scored three times; Terrera was credited with two goals and Jornayvaz added a goal in the loss and the team received one goal on a Penalty 1.
Audi 11, FlexJet 10
In a family affair that had father playing son, Audi (Marc Ganzi, Rodrigo Andrade, Gonzalito Pieres and Fred Mannix) managed to nip past FlexJet (Grant Ganzi, Nic Roldan, Miguel Novillo Astrada and Magoo Laprida) in an 11-10 nail-biter.
A confident Audi team took the field fresh off of their 2015 Piaget Gold Cup championship, and looked to be the odds-on favorite, but FlexJet had other ideas. With sixteen-year-old Grant Ganzi filling in for his mother, Melissa Ganzi, Flex Jet struck first. A 60-yard penalty conversion from Miguel Novillo Astrada had Audi trailing 1-0 after nearly two-and-one-half minutes of play. Gonzalito Pieres scored on a well-executed neck shot at the 3:57 mark to tie it at 1-1, and a goal from the field from Brazilian 9-goaler Rodrigo Andrade ended the chukker with Audi on top of a 2-1 score.
The tempo quickened in the second period. Astrada and Pieres traded goals from the field that kept Audi in front, 3-2. Nic Roldan scored from the field at the 4:11 mark to tie it at 3-3 with both teams scrambling for control of the ball. A goal from Magoo Laprida gave FlexJet their second lead of the game, 4-3 with three minutes left in the chukker. Andrade tied it at 4-4 with just less than two minutes left in the period. Laprida’s second goal of the chukker came with under a minute on the clock and gave FlexJet the 5-4 advantage as the period ended.
Pieres and Astrada traded penalty goals in the third. Pieres converted from 40-yards out while Astrada split the goalposts from the 60-yard mark. FlexJet remained in the lead, 6-5. Astrada stretched the FlexJet lead to two goals with a goal from the field, but Pieres closed the game with a chukker-ending goal from the field to trail, 7-6.
Andrade opened the second half with a goal from the field in the opening minute of play for a 7-7 tie. Pieres scored on a 30-yard penalty shot that had Audi in front, 8-7 midway through the chukker. Laprida’s third goal on the day ended the chukker in a dead heat, 8-8.
The pace continued to escalate in the fifth, but goals were hard to come by. Great defensive efforts were exerted by both sides, with Fred Mannix scoring the only goal of the period on a well-placed backhander that gave Audi the lead, 9-8.
Roldan tied the game again with the first goal of the sixth chukker, 9-9, but a FlexJet foul allowed Pieres the opportunity to convert a 30-yard penalty shot to get the lead back for Audi, 10-9. Laprida tied it again, 10-10, with less than three minutes remaining in the game. A FlexJ