By Darlene Ricker
Ellerstina Johor defeated Alegría 15-10 in the second semifinal of the 123rd Argentine Open Polo Championship on Sunday. The final will once again pit Ellerstina against archrival La Dolfina.
Alegría gave the Pieres boys a few premature grey hairs all the way through the first half and part way into the second. The third and fourth chukkas ended with the score tied (6-6 at halftime) and Alegría continued to keep the pressure on.
With Guillermo “Sapo” Caset back in the lineup (after being sidelined with an injury the past few games), and Frederick Mannix playing strong defense, Alegría was able to maintain a superb run through the fifth chukka. A tense Ellerstina found themselves struggling to fend off the incessant power plays of Hilario Ulloa. He made two back-to-back goals to pull Alegría into a two-point lead (9-7).
Suddenly Ellerstina snapped into gear, and Facundo Pieres decided to make his presence known. He slammed in three goals, one on a 60-yard penalty. Ellerstina inched ahead and kept Alegría scoreless through the sixth and seventh chukkas. Polito Pieres was unstoppable and played his best game of the season, scoring eight goals total from the field.
Ellerstina held a 13-9 lead going into the final chukka. But even with the momentum having shifted in their favor, Ellerstina was clearly cognizant that a lot can happen in seven minutes. Facundo and Polito Pieres made several perfectly calibrated passes that one or the other ran into goal. Ulloa dashed past them to make two more goals, bringing the score to 14-11.
Gonzalito Pieres, who provided consistent support throughout the match, sent a pass to Polito with just a minute on the clock. Polito ran it in to close the door with a 15-11 victory for Ellerstina and a place in the final.
The final between La Dolfina and Ellerstina takes place Saturday, 10 December. It will be live streamed on ESPN (except in Latin America): http://espni.go.com/player/video/playdemoesp/index.htm