By Alex Webbe: An action-packed day of polo had three cup titles being awarded with two at the 26-goal level and one in the International Polo Club’s final 20-goal tournament of the year.
Two years ago Lechuza Caracas scored an 11-7 win in the finals of the CV Whitney Cup over a Hawks team led by Mariano Aguerre and Julian Mannix. This year Aguerre and Mannix exacted their revenge as they captured the 2013 CV Whitney Championship in a 14-10 win Sunday afternoon at the International Polo club in Wellington.

Polito Pieres got Lechuza on the scoreboard with the first goal of the game some four minutes into play with a shot from the field. Alegria answered just a minute later with a penalty conversion from Facundo Obregon to knot it up at 1-1. Juan Martin gave the lead back to Lechuza, 2-1, with his first goal of the game. A Lechuza foul sent Obregon to the penalty line where he converted his second penalty shot of the day with 25 seconds left in the chukker. After one period of play it was all even at 2-2.

The veteran Lechuza team took back the lead in the second with team captain Victor Vargas scoring for a 3-2 lead. Pieres took the ensuing throw-in and raced 150 yards down the field to score and put Lechuza on top, 4-2. Penalties got Lechuza into trouble again with Mariano Aguerre scoring on a 90-yard penalty shot two-and-one-half minutes into the chukker, 4-3. Obregon converted another 30-yard penalty shot in the final 26 seconds of the period for another tie, 4-4.

For the first time all day, Alegria shut down the Lechuza attack in the third chukker and picked up single goals from Hilario Ulloa and Obregon. Obregon converted another penalty goal in the opening seconds of the period to give Alegria the lead, 5-4, a lead they would never again relinquish. Hilario Ulloa extended that lead to two goals, 6-4 with his first goal on the day. The two teams left the field at the end of the first half of play with Alegria ahead by two goals, 6-4.

Nero opened the second half with a goal from the field to cut the Alegria lead to a single goal, 6-5, and Pieres made a spectacular save on a shot on goal by Aguerre, stopping on the goal line and clearing it from the defensive zone of play. A 30-yard and a 40-yard penalty conversion by Obregon closed out the chukker with Alegria extending its lead to three goals, 8-5.

Pieres converted a penalty shot for a goal and Vargas added his second on the day to cut the Alegria lead to a single goal, 8-7 before Alegria could respond. Aguerre scored his second goal of the game to stop the Alegria skid, 9-7. Pieres scored again on a penalty shot, 9-8, but Alegria closed out the chukker with a pair of goals from Ulloa and another penalty conversion from Obregon. With a single chukker left in the game, Alegria boasted an 11-9 advantage over a struggling Lechuza polo team.

Francisco Elizalde got Lechuza on the scoreboard in the opening minute of the sixth chukker, but another penalty goal by Obregon and a goal from the field from Julian Mannix had Alegria ahead by five goals, 14-9, with four minutes left in regulation time. Vargas broke loose, once again, scoring his third goal of the game, but that would be where it would end. Following a missed 40-yard penalty shot by Lechuza, Alegria took control of the ball and ran the clock out in an impressive 14-10 win.

“We stayed organized today,” offered Obregon when asked the key to the team’s success. “Mariano (Obregon) is a great captain, and he keeps us all in line,” he added. “Julian (Mannix) and Hilario (Ulloa) had good games and we all supported one another.”

“We’re strong everywhere,” said the veteran 9-goaler Mariano Aguerre. “We’re strong in the middle of the field with Hilario (Ulloa) and Facundo (Obregon) and we have youth, experience and we’re well-mounted throughout the game,” he smiled. “We’re comfortable with each other.”

Twenty-one-year-old Julian Mannix gave credit to the entire Alegria organization for the win. “Everyone’s happy for what we achieved (today). It’s not just four guys playing, it’s a whole team effort,” he said. “Everyone in the barns, everyone pulling for us, it’s a lot of people’s work that goes into a win like this. So we’re all happy,” he said.

Obregon set the pace for the day with a game high eight goals, all on penalty shots, and was named MVP for his efforts on both offense and defense. Ulloa added three goals for the win with Aguerre scoring twice and Mannix getting credit for a single goal. Ulloa’s 7-year-old Chestnut American Thoroughbred mare, Mia, received Best Playing Pony honors. Pieres led the Lechuza attack with four goals. Vargas was credited with three goals. Nero scored twice and Elizalde registered a single goal in the loss.


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