Undefeated in bracket play, Iconica along with three other teams battled it out in the East Coast Open Semifinals on September 5, at the Greenwich Polo Club in Greenwich, Connecticut. Despite contending with the added challenge of an unusually hot day, all teams played competitive polo, Iconica and Audi each defeating their opponents by a pair of goals. Former teammates on the 2017 winning team GSA, Toro Ruiz and Matias Magrini will go head to head in the Sunday, September 9 final, at 3:00pm ET. For fans who cannot attend, the USPA Polo Network will livestream the match on uspolo.org, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.
ICONICA QUALIFIES FOR THE FINAL WITH A PERFECT 4-0 RECORD
Hot off their most recent match up against Work to Ride (WTR), Iconica entered the first East Coast Open Semifinal of the day in an optimal position to secure final placings. Confronted by a well-organized WTR team, Iconica finally broke the tie in the sixth chukker to overtake the game in the end 11-9.
Owning the first half of play, WTR was prepared to make the most of their chance at the final, stepping up to the challenge despite their fourth place record. An even first half, both teams worked the ball up and down the field trading goals each chukker. Iconica was unable to overcome the two goal handicap differential awarded at the onset of the game however, and trailed 5-7 at the end of the third.
Closing the gap in the second half, Iconica’s offensive push was met by resistance from the WTR team, leveling the field for two chukkers. Tied 8-all moving into the final chukker, Iconica laid down the hammer collecting three consecutive field goals. Desperate to stay competitive, Gringo Colombres retaliated immediately, but time was not on WTR’s side. Holding onto their perfect record, Iconica secured their fourth win and a place in the final 11-9.
Showing off their familiarity playing together after a competitive 20-goal winter season in Florida, Iconica’s fluidity on the field is what Maureen Brennan loves about her team’s dynamic. “These guys have played together in Argentina and I love playing with them,” Brennan remarked. “They always play all in and that’s the way I like to play also.”
Although his team wasn’t able to pull off a semifinal upset, WTR’s Daymar Rosser was appreciative of his first opportunity to play high goal. “It’s been a great experience playing with and against high-level players and I was able to take away a lot,” Rosser said. “I’ve learned what’s key in high goal is playing your position. You want to make sure if you have a set role to stay in that role the entire time. It’s been fun playing here and hopefully I can do it again.”
AUDI OVERPOWERS POSTAGE STAMP FARM TO SNATCH SECOND FINALIST POSITION
Familiar with Postage Stamp Farm’s (PSF) strengths and weaknesses after having played them a few days prior, Audi suspected the team would return stronger in the semifinal. Establishing control of the game by the fifth chukker, Audi continued to answer every one of PSF’s goals until the final horn signaled their triumph 12-10.
A 19-goal team taking on a 20-goal team, Postage Stamp Farm received one goal on handicap at the onset of the game. Going goal for goal, the first half was characterized by relentless offensive attacks by both sides, making for a fast-paced game. Audi’s Joaquin Panelo picked up the first field goal of the day, followed by a breakaway goal from PSF’s Annabelle Gundlach setting the tone for a back-and-forth contest. Aggressive and willing to take risks in the second chukker, both teams added one goal after another in rapid succession ending in a tie 5-all. Continuing to trade goals, play remained tight throughout the third, each team taking full advantage of the other’s mistakes. Missing two Penalty 4 opportunities, Panelo regained the deflected ball to score his fourth goal of the game, but PSF maintained the edge at the half 8-7.
Truly the offensive driving force behind Audi and contributing to the scoreboard every chukker, Panelo kicked off the second half by winning another throw in to goal. Picking up their momentum in the second half, Audi was fearless in their pursuit to gain the lead, but the tie persisted in the fourth. Missing several opportunities, PSF went scoreless in the fifth. Tying up the game once again early in the sixth, 10-all, PSF’s Tomas Garcia Del Rio would score the final goal for his team. Crushing their opponent’s chances, Audi claimed two additional goals, the last one sending them to the final 12-10.
Emphasizing the importance of youth to the health of the sport, Mariano Aguerre is happy to be playing with a group of talented young players. “We played with Joaquin during the summer, and with Torito, this is our first time, he is good, youth on the team, it’s awesome to have kids doing all the dirty work for me,” Aguerre laughed.
Armed with an incredible string of elite 26-goal athletes, Aguerre is also ready to unleash the power of his horses on Iconica. Playing for the first time since the USPA Gold Cup® during the winter high-goal season in Florida, this string of horses enjoyed time off in Virginia and are rested for the rigorous demands of the final. “Iconica has played together for quite some time so we are going to have to play very well in all six chukkers,” Aguerre said. “In bracket play we played very well in five chukkers and it wasn’t enough, so we are going to have to keep it up and maintain the level tight throughout the entire game.
All photos ©Marcelo Bianchi