The remaining four teams in the CaptiveOne U.S. Open Polo Championship began their quest for the final leg of the Gauntlet of Polo with an exciting overtime game resulting in Las Monjitas defeating Daily Racing Form 9-8, while Aspen claimed victory over Cessna Polo on the U.S. Polo Assn. Field 1 at the International Polo Club Palm Beach on Sunday, March 31.
The opening game of the day featured a closely fought game that was decided at the penalty line, with both teams attempting seven penalty shots in the game. A high foul count resulted in fewer opportunities from open play, with Las Monjitas slightly edging Daily Racing Form on their shots on goal.
Strong defense from both teams kept shots at a distance. Despite being held to zero field goals in the first half, Daily Racing Form kept pace with Las Monjitas due to three penalty conversions, two from Agustin Obregon and one from Jared Zenni. Las Monjitas generated offense from the field in the first half, led by Hilario Ulloa assisting on three of his team’s four goals in the opening half to push Las Monjitas into a 4-3 lead.
The pace of the game slowed over the final three chukkers, with the foul count continuing to climb. Fourteen combined fouls saw Francisco Elizalde and Jared Zenni trade goals from the penalty line, with Daily Racing Form outscoring Las Monjitas 2-0 in the fifth chukker to restore the tie, with just one chukker remaining.
A back-and-forth final chukker produced four penalty goals, two from each team, while Zenni scored all three goals for Daily Racing Form to send the game into overtime, with the teams tied at 8-8. Las Monjitas forced Daily Racing Form into two fouls in the overtime chukker, with the second resulting in a Penalty 2 conversion for Elizalde, securing the 9-8 victory for Las Monjitas.
The featured game of the week saw Aspen continue their strong play from the USPA Gold Cup, overwhelming Cessna Polo with accurate play that produced an efficient 75% percent shooting from the field.
Cessna controlled possession early in the game, led by Eduardo Novillo Astrada, playing in place of Ezequiel Martinez Ferrario, but couldn’t match the high conversion rate of Aspen to keep pace in the game.
Felipe Viana was instrumental in giving Cessna the lead in the opening chukker, converting two Penalty 2s, while also setting up Chip Campbell to give his team a 3-1 lead. The remainder of the first half favored Aspen, with Polito Pieres and Lucas James contributing to score seven goals in the second and third chukkers. While the high-rated duo may have been filling the scoresheet, it was Stewart Armstrong who was arguably the most impactful player, executing strong backhands and passes to assist on four of Aspen’s seven field goals in the half to give Aspen an 8-4 lead.
Viana began the second half looking to close the deficit, adding his third and fourth goals of the game to bring Cessna within three. Despite being outshot in the opening of the second half, Aspen maintained its lead thanks to efficient shooting from Pieres and James, who took advantage of each opportunity presented to them.
Needing to create quick offense in the final chukker to make a comeback, Cessna pushed forward, which left them vulnerable to a counter-attack led by Aspen’s Lucas James. In his best game of the season, James scored three consecutive goals to seal the victory, finishing with an impressive eight goals to complete the 14-8 win.
U.S. Open action continues this weekend. For more info., visit www.internationalpoloclub.com.