Dubai and Audi will advance to the semifinals in the USPA Gold Cup®. In the third round of the tournament Thursday, Dubai defeated Lucchese 11-6 and Flexjet defeated Audi 11-9. Orchard Hill defeated White Birch 12-10, and Coca-Cola defeated Valiente 12-11 in overtime.
On Friday, a shootout was used to determine a three-way tie among Audi, Coca-Cola and Flexjet. In the quarterfinals on Sunday, Orchard Hill will play Lucchese and Coca-Cola will oppose Flexjet. Julio Arellano shot for Coca-Cola, Agustin Merlos shot for Flexjet and Gonzalo Pieres shot for Audi.
After defeating Lucchese 11-6, Dubai is headed to the semifinals. Adolfo Cambiaso did precisely what was expected, scoring seven of Dubai’s eleven total goals . The other 10-goaler on the field, Sapo Caset, thwarted Cambiaso’s efforts as best he could and scored twice, but even that was not enough to deter Dubai. Cambiaso and Caset, both playing No. 4 and superbly mounted, had several stride-for-stride ride offs. For a while they matched each other play-by-play, one and then the other making a long drive (including an 87 yard goal by Cambiaso).
At the end of the fourth chukker, Magoo Laprida tied the game, six all. Dubai was scoreless in that chukker, and Cambiaso was not pleased, later saying, “We didn’t play well in the fourth. None of the positions were right.” Facundo Sola changed that in the fifth and put Dubai up by one goal with a penalty three conversion, followed by another goal from the field. Dubai systematically stretched their lead through the fifth and sixth to take the win.
For Diego Cavanagh, Thursday was a day of major highs and lows. He was the game high-scorer, with seven goals, while also mounting a powerhouse defense for Valiente. His team held a comfortable lead through the first half, but then the momentum shifted dramatically, resulting in a 12-11 loss to Coca-Cola in overtime. Valiente was eliminated from the tournament.
“It was a very even game over time,” said Julio Arellano. “Diego was awesome on his penalty shots today; he’s always very good. In the beginning of the game he was too free and was doing a lot of damage, and we fouled too much. Then we tried to mark up tight and move the ball. It worked.”
Everything was on the line for Orchard Hill and White Birch in their last game of bracket play. Both standing 0-2 in the USPA Gold Cup®, the losing team would be eliminated from the tournament. Coming off their win in the 26-goal C.V. Whitney Cup, Orchard Hill won 12-10.
“We had a slow start in this tournament. We won the last one and then I think we took a breather and we just haven’t been able to get back in. Finally we are starting to get back to where we need to be,” said Orchard Hill patron Steve Van Andel. “It was a tough game. If you even relaxed for a second, they took advantage of it. They did really well, but we made it.”
White Birch wasted no time trying to get the jump on their opponents. Mariano Aguerre scored in the first 20 seconds of the game, and White Birch led 3-2 at the end of the first chukker. Orchard Hill came back with three consecutive goals, one on a full-field run by Julian de Lusarreta, and was ahead 8-5 going into halftime. White Birch fought back, keeping Orchard Hill scoreless in the fourth chukker and scoring three consecutive goals to tie the game at eight. A battle ensued in the final chukker. The only success story was de Lusarretta, who scored twice for Orchard Hill. “We were not playing well, so that is why I hit it so hard,” he said of the final goal, which he scored with less than a minute remaining on the clock. “They are a tough team; they play hard and quick. I may have scored, but the plays were set up by my teammates.”
Flexjet captured the lead seconds into the game and refused to surrender it, taking an 11-9 victory over Audi that sent both teams to a penalty shootout Friday. Less than a minute into the first chukker Nic Roldan scored on an assist from patron Melissa Ganzi. Playing a strong No. 1, Ganzi consistently contributed to the match. “My team is really great at passing the ball, so it worked well to move the team forward,” she said. Her husband, Marc Ganzi, played the same position for Audi.
“We play each other so much that for us it was just (playing) another team,” she said. “We know each other really well because we practice together a lot, so that can be good for either team.” This time it worked better for Flexjet, which maintained the lead 6-5 at the end of the first half.
In the fourth chukker Flexjet pulled ahead by three, but Audi tightened the gap to two goals, where it remained for the rest of the game. “We were consistent, which is what the team strives for, and we attacked with our defense,” said Agustin Merlos, who made six goals, five from the field. “In order to beat Audi we knew we had to play really well, and we did today. We did what we had to do.”
The games were livestreamed by ChukkerTV, a partner of the USPA Polo Network, except for the 4 p.m. game due to a scheduling conflict. Follow continuous live coverage of the USPA Gold Cup® on Sunday, March 20. Flexjet opposes Orchard Hill at noon, and Lucchese plays Coca-Cola at 3 p.m. All times are EDT.