Orchard Hill 12- White Birch 10
It was a must-win situation for both White Birch (Peter Brant, Mariano Aguerre, Hilario Ulloa and Ezequiel Martínez Ferrario) and Orchard Hill (Steve Van Andel, Facundo Pieres, Polito Pieres and Julián de Lusarreta) Thursday morning when they faced one another in the third round of play in the 2016 USPA Gold Cup at the International Polo Club. Neither team had won a game and entered the contest with identical 0-2 records. A win would carry one of them on to the tournament quarterfinals while a loss would eliminate them from the competition, and as luck would have it, it was Orchard Hill with the 12-10 victory after seven contentious chukkers of play.
White Birch took early control of the game with Mariano Aguerre scoring in the opening 30 seconds of the game for a 1-0 lead. Teammate Hilario Ulloa converted a penalty shot from 60-yards out to make it 2-0 less than a minute later. Almost four scoreless minutes passed before Facundo rocketed the ball between the White Birch goalposts to make it 2-1. Polito Pieres scored on a pass from Julian de Lusarreta a minute later to level the score at 3-3. With 1:15 left in the chukker Ulloa converted a 40-yard penalty shot that gave White Birch the 3-2 lead at the end of the opening chukker.
The second chukker belonged to Orchard Hill with the level surface of the field allowing the 10-goal Pieres cousins to demonstrate their stick handling skills. Facundo Pieres opened the period with a tying goal from the field, 3-3 followed by a goal from Polito Pieres to give Orchard Hill their first lead of the game, 4-3. De Lusarreta scored in the final 14 seconds of the chukker as Orchard Hill stretched their lead to two goals, 5-3.
Facundo Pieres scored on a 30-yard penalty conversion as the third chukker got underway giving Orchard Hill a three goal advantage, 6-3. Ulloa scored on a long run, 6-4. Facundo Pieres and Ulloa exchanged goals midway through the chukker with Facundo Pieres sending the ball through the goalposts from 130-yards away for the final goal of first half and an 8-5 lead.
White Birch had regrouped at halftime and returned to the field in the fourth period on a mission. Team captain Peter Brank broke free from the opening throw-in with the ball, racing for the Orchard Hill goal. Ulloa followed up on the carry and pushed the ball over the goal line for the score, 8-6 in the opening 19 seconds. Brant scored a goal of his own at the 6:16 mark, 8-7. Aguerre tied the game at 8-8 with the final goal of the chukker. A fall by Ulloa in the chukker left him a little rattled and sent Ezequiel Ferrario to the penalty line to attempt a 40-yard penalty shot (Ulloa is the team’s designated penalty shooter). The shot went wide and the score remained tied.
White Birch wasted little time getting back into the game with Ulloa returning to the penalty shooting duties and converting a 30-yard shot for the go-ahead goal, 9-8. Polito Pieres tied it two minutes later with a goal from the field, 9-9. Facundo Pieres took the lead back for Orchard Hill with a short penalty shot and a 10-9 edge with 2:48 left in the chukker. White Birch rallied with Ulloa scoring the final goal of the chukker with the teams leaving the field with the score all even at 10-10.
The Orchard Hill defense did its job in the final period with a shutout performance. De Lusarreta scored the first goal of the sixth period that gave Orchard Hill an 11-10 advantage, but a dangerous White Birch team remained on the field and in the hunt. The Orchard Hill defense held, however, with de Lusarreta adding an insurance goal to their total at the one-minute mark and lifting his team to a 12-10 victory and a date in the quarterfinals of the 2016 USPA Gold Cup.
Facundo Pieres scored four of his six goals from the field. Polito Pieres and de Lusarreta added three goals apiece for the win. Ulloa led all scorers with seven goals (three from the penalty line). Aguerre scored twice and Brant accounted for a goal in the loss.
Dubai 11, Lucchese 6
The second Gold Cup match of the day featured two undefeated teams in Lucchese (John Muse, Guillermo Caset, Cristian Laprida and Nico Pieres) Dubai (Rashid Albwardy, Adolfo Cambiaso, Facundo Sola and Alejo Taranco). Both teams were making their 26-goal debuts in the 2016 USPA Gold Cup and each had scored wins in their opening two games. The winner of the day’s match would determine which of the two teams would advance to Wednesday’s semifinals and which would themselves competing in mini-quarterfinal competition on Sunday.
The mere appearance of Argentine 10-goaler Adolfo Cambiaso in any lineup is intimidating for most teams, and the site of him wearing a Dubai jersey would be a common site if one were watching polo competition in England where he played with Rashid Albwardy on the British Open Championship Dubai team in 2014; or with Albwardy and Alejo Taranco on the Dubai team that captured the Gold Cup in Spain in 2015.
It was Cambiaso who scored the first goal of the game on a 60-yard penalty conversion followed by a goal from the field from Taranco, 2-0. Nico Pieres got Lucchese on the scoreboard but it was Cambiaso’s second goal of the chukker that ended the first period with Dubai on top of a 3-1 lead.
Sapo Caset, the game’s other 10-goaler cut the Dubai lead back to a single goal, 3-2 with the opening goal of the second chukker. Cambiaso responded with the only other goal of the chukker as Dubai maintained their two goal advantage, 4-2.
Dubai and Lucchese traded goals in the third chukker with Cambiaso opening with a goal from the field, 5-2. Lucchese answered back with goals from Caset and Pieres, 5-4. Dubai’s final goal of the first half came on a 30-yard penalty conversion from Cambiaso that kept Dubai in the lead, 6-4.
Lucchese presented a new look to themselves as the second half got started. Goals from the field from Pieres and Magoo Laprida were complimented by shutout defense as Lucchese leveled the score at 6-6.
Dubai returned the favor in the fifth period with Facundo Sola scoring once on a 40-yard penalty shot and once from the field. Lucchese was kept off of the scoreboard and found themselves trailing Dubai, 8-6.
Under the masterful eye of Cambiaso, Dubai dominated the final period of the game. Cambiaso scored the first two goals of the sixth chukker followed by a closing goal from Albwardy as Dubai remained undefeated (3-0) and earned a spot in Wednesday’s semifinals. The loss was the first for Lucchese (2-1) who would be appearing in Sunday’s mini-quarterfinal action of the tournament.
Orchard Hill 12- White Birch 10