By Alex Webbe

Orchard Hill (Hugo Taylor, Polito Pieres, Facundo Pieres and Felipe Vercellino) took their first step in defending their 2016 C. V. Whitney Cup championship Thursday afternoon at the International Polo Club by defeating a difficult Coca-Cola polo team (Gillian Johnston, Julian de Lusarreta, Julio Arellano and Miguel Astrada), but they needed an overtime chukker with which to do it.

With 1-goaler Hugo Taylor filling in for team patron Steve Van Andel, 10-goaler Polito Pieres put the first goal on the scoreboard in the opening minute of play for a 1-0 start. Coca-Cola’s Miguel Novillo Astrada countered with a well-placed shot through the goalposts from 50-yards out to tie the game at 1-1. Julio Arellano gave the lead to Coca-Cola with his first goal of the game, 2-1, but a 40-yard penalty conversion from Facundo Pieres had the teams even at 2-2 at the end of the first chukker.

Julian de Lusarreta

Orchard Hill opened it up in the second period as they scored five consecutive goals while holding Coca-Cola scoreless. Felipe Vercellino scored twice while Hugo Taylor, Polito Pieres and Facundo Pieres (40-yard penalty shot) added single goals. After two chukkers of play, Orchard Hill charged out in front with a 7-2 lead.

The Coca-Cola defense stepped it up in the third, shutting a potent Orchard Hill attack for the first time while adding three goals of their own from Julio Arellano (one on a 30-yard penalty conversion). At the end of the first half, the lead belonged to Orchard Hill, but Coca-Cola cut their lead back tow two goals, 7-5.

The Coca-Cola offense was just getting on track as they exploded for four more goals in the fourth period. Astrada took the opening throw-in and carried it down the field for the first goal followed by a 30-yard penalty goal from Arellano that tied the game at 7-7. Julian de Lusarreta scored on a pass from Arellano for their first lead since the opening chukker, 8-7, but Orchard Hill fought back. Facundo Pieres tied it at 8-8 with his third goal of the day. Arellano’s second goal of the chukker came on an extreme angle shot taken on the nearside with Facundo Pieres scoring the final goal of the period on a 60-yard penalty shot to know the score at 9-9.

Felipe Vercellino

Two more penalty goals from Facundo Pieres were answered by a single goal from the field from de Lusarreta n the fifth. Orchard Hill ended the period with a narrow one-goal advantage, 11-10.

Facundo Pieres and Arellano exchanged 30-yard penalty shots in the sixth chukker to make it 12-11, Orchard Hill. A closing goal from de Lusarreta came with three minutes left in the chukker and resulted in a 12-12 deadlock, and forcing overtime play.

A new rule instituted with the opening game of the 26-goal C. V. Whitney Cup eliminated the “sudden-death” feature of the overtime chukker for the first three-and-one-half minutes of play, and the teams returned to the field.

Arellano took advantage of an Orchard Hill foul in the opening 25-seconds of overtime and converted the shot for a goal and what many of the spectators on hand thought was the winning goal, but such was not the case, and play continued. Orchard Hill’s Vercellino scored for the third time on the day and tied the game at 13-13. The winning goal came at the 3:45 mark of the overtime period with Facundo Pieres converting a penalty shot from thirty-yards out for the 14-13 victory.

Facundo Pieres scored seven of his team-high eight goals on penalty shots. Vercellino added three goals; Polito Pieres scored twice and Taylor added a goal for the win. Arellano wrapped up an explosive day with eight goals to his credit (four on penalty conversions). Three goals from de Lusarreta and two goals from Astrada rounded out the Coca-Cola scoring.

C. V. Whitney Cup action is scheduled to continue on Sunday at the International Polo club with a 3pm contest between Coca-Cola and Valiente (Bob Jornayvaz, Matias Torres Zavaleta, Adolfo Cambiaso and Diego Cavanagh).
(Photos by Alex Pacheco)

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