By Darlene Ricker
Ellerstina Johor defeated Washington 16-11, and Alegría Assist Card decimated La Irenita 23-8 in Sunday’s second set of quarterfinals in the 123rd Hurlingham Open.
The young guns of Washington, showing an even stronger edge than last season, made Pieres & Company work for every goal—duly noted in some good-natured bantering between MVP Facundo Pieres and “Deadeye” Diego Cavanagh at the post-game press conference. The two were high-scorers for their respective teams, Pieres with six goals and Cavanagh five.
Ellerstina found themselves operating with a shuffled, yet effective, lineup. Minus Polito Pieres (out with a back injury), the match started with Brazilian Rodrigo Andrade as his sub. At the top of the seventh chukka Ellerstina’s dance card changed yet again when Mariano Aguerre replaced Andrade. A repeated shift like that is never easy, particularly this time, given that the gap was in the key “Polito position.” But Ellerstina maintained focus and stuck to the plan through the ever-escalating war with Washington.
It was clear from the start that the teams were evenly matched, with the first chukka ending in a tie at 1. Ellerstina slid into a two-goal lead in the second, but every time they started to get some traction Washington countered. After repeatedly tying the score in the third and fourth chukkas, Ellerstina established a 7-4 advantage at the end of the first half. From there on, they inched ahead incrementally, but it was never easy. Washington shaved their opponent’s seven-goal lead at the end of the fifth (12-5) to six goals in each of the next two chukkas, and finally to five, with the game ending 16-11 for Ellerstina.
In the other match, Alegría (37 goals) romped to a masterful 15-goal victory over La Irenita (29 goals). Clemente Zavaleta hung tough for La Irenita, resurfacing after some falls without missing a beat. Alegría remained in attack mode throughout and was ahead 13-5 at halftime. Hilario Ulloa, who played in super sync with fellow 10-goaler Guillermo “Sapo” Caset, earned MVP honors.