Doubleheader bracket play resumed in the U.S. Open Polo Championship® at International Polo Club Palm Beach (IPC) with G-String Polo Ponies claiming their first victory of the tournament over SD Farms on Field 5. Matching each other in stride, four penalty conversions for G-String Polo Ponies in the fourth chukker ultimately set up a last-minute drive from Nico Pieres to claim the hard-fought 14-13 victory. Capping off the action on Field 3, Aspen Valley Polo Club’s Alejandro Novillo Astrada and Pablo Mac Donough combined for ten goals to deliver the 12-8 win over Casablanca.
Falling to Aspen Valley Polo Club in a heartbreaking overtime loss, a regrouped G-String Polo Ponies approached their second match of bracket play with no hesitations. Coming out with a charge, Julian de Lusarreta and Gillian Johnston went back-to-back from the field to put G-String Polo Ponies ahead 2-0. Searching for their second victory of the tournament, the firepower of Felipe Vercellino and Felipe Viana answered with three quick successful drives of their own to take a 3-2 lead. Outshooting SD Farms’ twelve to four in the first half, G-String Polo Ponies struggled to hit the posts in open play, but despite their shooting struggles, G-String Polo Ponies continued to produce from the penalty line as Pieres converted three attempts. Mounting a strong response, SD Farms’ trio of Vercellino, Viana, and Pedro Zacharias brought the game even at 6-all entering the break.
Foul troubles immediately hindered SD Farms to open the second half of play, as Pieres stepped up to roll four Penalty 2 conversions through the posts for G-String Polo Ponies. Vercellino and Zacharias answered with their own Penalty 2 and Penalty 1, however field goals from Pieres and Nico Escobar completed an astounding six-goal fourth chukker for G-String Polo Ponies for the 12-8 edge. Following a substitution of Tommy Huber in the place of Sayyu Dantata, SD Farms rallied in the fifth chukker to account for three goals from Vercellino and Viana to cut their deficit back to within one. Trading goals in the sixth, Viana and de Lusarreta each fought to grab the victory but in the final stages, SD Farms’ Vercellino found the goal to tie the game at 13-13. With a second consecutive overtime looming, Pieres capped off his eight-goal day firing from distance over multiple defenders to send the game winning shot across the line for the dramatic 14-13 victory.
Reconvening on Field 3, the second match-up in the doubleheader kick-started with goals from Casablanca’s Sugar Erskine and Valentino Echezarreta. Looking to rebound following a tough loss to Park Place, Casablanca’s early momentum was immediately matched by a 30-yard conversion from Aspen Valley Polo Club’s Alejandro Novillo Astrada and a drawn Penalty 1 from Pablo Mac Donough to keep play tied at 2-all. After trading two goals each to open the second, Erskine escorted the ball across the goal line to break the tie and take a narrow 5-4 Casablanca lead. Mounting a firm response in the third, Astrada and Mac Donough combined for three goals to push Aspen Valley Polo Club back on top 7-5 at halftime.
With both sides tightening on defense to open the second half of play, the only goal in the fourth chukker came from the mallet of Echezarreta to bring Casablanca back to within one. With four of their seven goals coming from the penalty line, Aspen Valley Polo Club finally broke through in the field, assembling a brilliant run of five unanswered goals with each teammate reaching the scoreboard. Pushing Casablanca back on their heels, Aspen Valley Polo Club’s offensive blitz was finally slowed by Agustin Merlos, who scored back-to-back goals, but it left Casablanca still in need of goals with time expiring. Ultimately, the united play of Aspen Valley Club in the fifth chukker proved to be the difference as Casablanca was unable to mount a comeback in the 12-8 defeat.
The U.S. Open Polo Championship® continues at IPC on April 5 with one match between Cessna and Old Hickory Bourbon/Airstream at 11:00am ET.
Photo Credit ©Alex Pacheco