Doubleheader excitement resumed in the U.S. Open Polo Championship® at International Polo Club Palm Beach (IPC) with CK Shack and SD Farms assembling on Isla Carroll West. Showcasing a fresh roster, SD Farms established an early lead and never looked back, as nine goals from Felipe “Pipe” Vercellino drove his team to an impressive 17-9 victory. Making their GAUNTLET debut, Casablanca faced a tough task facing the reigning C.V. Whitney Cup® champions Park Place. Rebounding from their finals loss to Pilot in the USPA Gold Cup®, Park Place re-established themselves as top competitors in the U.S. Open, with 10-goaler Hilario Ulloa leading his team scoring eight goals to crush Casablanca 18-5.
SD Farms wasted no time adjusting to their roster reconstruction, as goals from Felipe Viana, Pedro Zacharias, and Vercellino gave SD Farms an early 4-0 advantage. Exchanging a pair of goals in the second chukker, Vercellino tapped in his second conversion from the line, while CK Shack’s Santiago Toccalino finally found space in the field on back-to-back goals to get CK Shack on the scoreboard. Sending Vercellino to the line twice in the opening chukkers, CK Shack’s foul troubles continued, as Vercellino put another two penalty goals through the posts in the third. Increasing SD Farms’ lead to six, with five goals coming from the mallet of Vercellino, CK Shack’s Toccalino scored his third from the field to give his team much needed energy as they trailed 6-2 at halftime.
Rallying around Toccalino’s late third chukker goal, CK Shack began their attempted comeback with a run of three goals, including a breakaway from Kris Kampsen. Unrelenting in their response, SD Farms ignited a three-goal scoring spree of their own, with two more from Vercellino to maintain a five-goal lead. Trading penalty conversions between Toccalino and Vercellino to open the fifth chukker, SD Farms’ unified and dominant play saw Viana score his second of the match, while Harrison Azzaro hit the posts for his first, as all of SD Farm’s refreshed roster finally reached the scoreboard. Scoring another three consecutive goals to open the final chukker, Vercellino converted his fourth conversion from the 60-yard line, ending his day with a team leading nine goals. Despite a late push from Porter and Toccalino, CK Shack’s twelve fouls proved detrimental, costing CK Shack six penalty goals from the hands of sharp shooting Vercellino, as SD Farms took their first victory of the tournament with ease 17-9.
Relocating to Park Place for the second match of the doubleheader, the 23-goal Park Place team awarded one goal on handicap to newcomer Casablanca. Adding onto their early lead, Sugar Erskine stole the ball off the mallet of Ulloa to give Casablanca a 2-0 advantage, however, it would be the last time Park Place would trail in the match. Beginning their onslaught in response to Erskine’s strong goal from the field, the powerful duo of Ulloa and Juan Britos came alive to combine for three goals. Trading Penalty 5’s from Casablanca’s Erskine and Park Place’s Ellis, Ulloa and Britos linked up for additional four goals. Despite a late chukker contribution from Agustin “Tincho” Merlos for Casablanca, Park Place ended their first half doubling up their struggling opponents 8-4.
Re-entering play following the break, Park Place allowed their defensive victories in open play to drive their offensive success with four more consecutive goals, including three assists from Ellis. Drawing a Penalty 1 to start the beginning of the fifth chukker, Ulloa backed with the unstoppable force of his teammates in Britos and Ellis kept Casablanca pinned in their end of the field. Adding four more goals in open play, Park Place increased their lead to thirteen. Facing the insurmountable task of pulling themselves back into contention, Casablanca’s difficult debut ended on a high note with Valentino Echezarreta finding the posts for his first goal of the match to contribute Casablanca’s only score since the third chukker. Routing the competition 18-5 on home soil, Ulloa currently leads the GAUNTLET with an outstanding eighty-two goals and will continue his bid to achieve one hundred goals on the season.
Qualifying matches in the U.S. Open Polo Championship® continues Saturday, April 2 at IPC in a doubleheader featuring Audi vs La Indiana at 11:00am ET, followed by Cessna facing newly crowned USPA Gold Cup® champions Pilot at 1:00pm ET.
Photo Credit ©Alex Pacheco