by U.S. Polo Correspondent Alex Webbe

Overnight rains forced the rescheduling of quarterfinal action in the 2013 Maserati US Polo Championship, but at the end of the day, all four games were played and the four semifinalists emerged.

In a noon contest that was originally slated to be played at 10am, Zacara rebounded from an ineffective first half to send Audi packing in a 12-8 win. It was an announcer’s nightmare, with three Pieres brothers on the field (Nico and Gonzalito for Audi; and Facundo for Zacara) and non-stop action, but a subdues first chukker had Nico Pieres scoring the first goal of the game in the first two minutes of play followed by a pair of goals from Facundo Pieres for an early 2-1 Zacara advantage.

The second chukker belonged to Facundo’s older brother Gonzalito Pieres and the Audi defense. Gonzalito Pieres opened the chukker with a goal from the field in the first 30 seconds of the period for a 2-2 tie. Two minutes later Gonzalito Pieres made it 3-2 while Zacara struggled to score a goal. A final goal from Gonzalito Pieres crossed the goal line with 13 seconds on the clock as Audi drove out to a 4-2 lead. Nico Pieres and Facundo Pieres exchanged goals in the third chukker, with Audi maintaining the lead, 5-3 to end the first half of the game.

Facundo Pieres scored a goal from the field in the opening seconds of the fourth, with Nico Pieres responding with a goal just a minute later, 6-4, but that was when Zacara took control of the game. Facundo Pieres scored a pair of goals (one on a penalty shot) to knot it up at 6-6. Mike Azzaro and Magoo Laprida registered single goals from the field in the final 90 seconds of the chukker for an 8-6 advantage. “We just weren’t getting the goals in the first half,” said Facundo Pieres. “We had plenty of opportunities, but just couldn’t put the ball through the goalposts.” Teammate Magoo Laprida agreed. “We had our opportunities in the first half,” he said, “but we just weren’t making our shots. We got stronger in the second half and made up for it,” he smiled.

Consecutive goals from Azzaro and Pieres were recorded in the first minute of the fifth period as Zacara extended its lead to four goals, 10-6. Nico Pieres tried to stay close by converting a pair of penalty shots for goals, but Zacara continued to hold the lead, 10-8. Facundo Pieres opened the final chukker by converting a 60-yard Safety for a goal, and added another from the field just a minute later while Audi struggled to stay in the game. Airtight defense kept Audi off of the scoreboard as Zacara rode off with the 12-8 victory and an appointment in Wednesday’s semifinals. Facundo Pieres led the field with nine goals on the day. Azzaro scored twice while exhibiting his Hall of Fame form with Laprida scoring once in the win. Nico Pieres scored three of his five goals from the field. Gonzalito added three goals in the loss.

ERG 10, ALEGRIA 9
ERG turned the table on Alegria by outscoring them in the second half and racking up a hard-fought 10-9 win. In a fast-paced opening chukker, Alegria and ERG exchanged goals for a 2-2 tie. ERG’s Paco de Narvaez scored the first goal of the day on a 60-yard penalty shot for a goal and an early 1-0 lead. Alegria 8-goaler Hilario Ulloa responded with a like penalty conversion and teammate Facundo Obregon scored a goal from the field for a 2-1 edge. Eduardo Novillo Astrada closed out the chukker with a goal from the field for ERG in a 2-2 tie. Alegria took advantage of second chukker let down by the ERG offense, and added goals from Ulloa and Mariano Aguerre. After two, Alegria move in front, 4-2. Both teams had their attacks on track in the third. Aguerre scored two more goals from the field and Ulloa scored his third goal of the game. Astrada scored twice from the field and Agustin Merlos added a penalty goal. At the end of the first half, Alegria maintained a two goal, 7-5 lead.

The ERG offense continued to impress in the fourth chukker. Two more goals from the field from Astrada and another penalty conversion from Merlos had ERG tying it up, 8-8. Alegria was limited to a single goal on a Safety (60-yard penalty shot) by Merlos in the period. Both defenses tightened up in the fifth. Astrada managed the only goal in the period, and ERG finally took and held the led, 9-8. The final minutes of the sixth chukker were played at break-neck speed. Paco de Narvaez put ERG in front, 10-8, with his second goal of the day. A penalty conversion from Obregon cut the lead to a single goal, once again, 10-9. De Narvaez hit the ball over the sideboards in the final seconds of the game, but in so doing, received an unsportsmanlike conduct foul, giving Alegria a final opportunity to tie it up and force overtime. Alegria 9-goaler Ulloa’s shot at goal went wide, and the game ended with ERG celebrating a 10-9 win and a berth in the 2013 Maserati US Open semifinal on Wednesday. Astrada led the game with six goals on the day. Merlos and de Narvaez added two goals apiece for the victory. Ulloa’s four goals led the Alegria offense. Aguerre added three more goals and Obregon scored twice.

VALIENTE 15, ORCHARD HILL 12
Sunday’s feature match of the day was a high-scoring affair that had Valiente taking the day with a 15-12 win over a spirited and determined Orchard Hill lineup. Valiente 10-goaler Pelon Stirling scored the opening goal in the first sixteen seconds of the match for a 1-0 advantage, but couldn’t seem to build on it as Orchard Hill put up an impressive defense in first chukker action. Brazilian 8-goaler Rodrigo Andrade tied it at 1-1 with a goal from the field. After the first seven minutes of play, the teams were all even at 1-1. Orchard Hill’s Pablo MacDonough and Valiente’s Adolfo Cambiaso exchanged goals in the opening minutes of the second chukker, 2-2. The Orchard Hill attack stepped it up with a well-executed nearside neck sot from Andrade and a 40-yard penalty shot from Matias MacDonough. After two periods of play, Orchard Hill held a surprising 4-2 advantage.

Valiente regrouped and exploded for five unanswered goals in the third. Torres converted a penalty shot for a goal and added two more goals from the field, the last coming on a beautiful combination play that had Cambiaso passing ahead to Stirling whose shot on goal was tapped in by a streaking Torres. Cambiaso scored on a Safety and added a 40-yard penalty shot for a goal and a 7-4 halftime lead. Penalty goals from Torres and Cambiaso kept Valiente in front in the fourth, but Orchard Hill cut into the lead, picking up single goals from Andrade, Pablo MacDonough and Matias Macdonough (penalty goal). The chukker ended with Valiente on top of a 9-7 score. In spite of an opening goal from Torres that put Valiente ahead, 10-7, in the opening minute of the chukker, Orchard Hill brought the game to Valiente in the fifth. Picking up a pair of goals from Andrade and single goals from Pablo MacDonough and Matias MacDonough (penalty conversion), Orchard Hill took a brief 11-10 lead. Cambiaso scored a tying goal, 11-11, with 1:55 left in the period, and a goal from Torres in the final 20 seconds put Valiente back in the lead, 12-11 with one chukker left in regulation time.

In one of the most spectacular plays of the game, Cambiaso intercepted an Orchard Hill pass at full speed, and drove it over 120 yards down the field. A racing Stirling was there, and drove it through the goalposts for the score, 13-11. Ten-goaler Pablo MacDonough responded with a goal from the field less than a minute later, 13-12. A cut shot by Torres carried through the goalposts at the 3:50 mark, 14-12 with a final goal from the nineteen-year-old Torres ending the game in a 15-12 Valiente win. Torres registered eight goals on the day, with only two of them coming on penalty shots. He was named MVP for his efforts. Cambiaso was credited with five goals (there from penalty conversions), and Stirling scored twice. Andrade and Pablo MacDonough scored five goals each in the loss. Matias MacDonough converted two penalty shots. Cambiaso’s black 10-year-old mare, Gatita was honored as Best Playing Pony.

COCA-COLA 11, LECHUZA CARACAS 10
A balanced Coca-Cola attack managed to sneak past a powerful Lechuza Caracas lineup 11-10 in the last quarterfinal of the day. Sebastian scored Coca-Cola’s first goal of the game, and Julio Arellano converted a penalty shot, but a pair of goals from the field from Lechuza Caracas had it all even at the end of the first chukker, 2-2. A second goal from Merlos opened the second chukker, but ensuing goals from Francisco Elizalde and Pieres gave Lechuza Caracas a fragile 4-3, one goal lead. Lechuza Caracas extended the lead to two goals in the third in spite of a pair of goals from Coca-Cola team captain, Gillian Johnston. Lechuza Caracas responded with two more goals from Pieres and a single goal from team captain, Victor Vargas. At the end of the first half, Lechuza Caracas was on top, 7-5.

Arellano tied it up at 7-7 with a pair of goals in the fourth period. Lechuza Caracas 10-goaler, Juan Martin Nero scored his first goal of the match, and managed to hold onto the lead, 8-7. Pieres scored his sixth and seventh goals of the day in the fifth period. Coca-Cola kept from being shutout with a single goal from Arellano, but Lechuza Caracas continued to lead 10-8. The leadership of Arellano in the final chukker was credited with the victory as teammates Johnston and Sugar Erskine scored single goals to tie it at 10-10. A final Coca-Cola effort had Merlos scoring the winning goal with just over 30 seconds in the game for an exciting, come-from-behind 11-10 win. Pieres set the pace on the day with seven goals for Lechuza Caracas. Vargas, Nero and Elizalde added single goals in a losing effort. Arellano scored four times in the win (twice on penalty shots). Merlos and Johnston scored three goals apiece and Erskine added a goal in the victory that would send Coca-Cola to Wednesday’s Maserati US Open semifinals.

Wednesday’s semifinal pairings have Valiente playing Coca-Cola at 2pm followed by a game between Zacara and ERG to decide the finalists of the 2013 Maserati US Open championship.




The Teams:
Alegria (+26)
Julian Mannix (+2)
Hilario Ulloa (+9)
Mariano Aguerre (+9)
Facundo Obregon (+6)

Audi (+26)
Marc Ganzi (+1)
Nico Pieres (+8)
Gonzalito Pieres (+10)
Jeff Hall (+7)

Coca-Cola (+26)
Gillian Johnston (+1)
Sugar Erskine (+7)
Julio Arellano (+9)
Sebastian Merlos (+9)

ERG (+26)
Scott Wood (0) / Wesley Bryan
Tincho Merlos (+9)
Eduardo Novillo Astrada (+9)
Paco de Navaez (+8)

Faraway Polo (+26 / +25)
Bo / Hutton Goodman (+1 / 0)
Santiago Chavanne (+9)
Nic Roldan (+8)
Matias Magrini (+8)

Lechuza Caracas (+26)
Victor Vargas (+1)
Polito Pieres (+8)
Juan Martin Nero (+10) / Mariano Gonzalez
Francisco Elizalde (+7)

Orchard Hill (+26)
Steve van Andel (0)
Rodrigo Andrade (+8)
Pablo MacDonough (+10)
Matias MacDonough (+8)

Piaget (+26)
Melissa Ganzi (0) / Matias Sosa
Nacho Badiola (+6)
Sapo Caset (+10) / Lucas Lalor and Juan Bollini / Nacho Novillo Astrada (+10)
Miguel Novillo Astrada (+10)

Valiente (+26)
Bob Jornayvaz (0)
Pelon Stirling (+10)
Adolfo Cambiaso (+10)
Santi Torres (+6)

Zacara (+26)
Facundo Pieres (+10)
Lyndon Lea (+1)
Magoo Laprida (+8)
Mike Azzaro (+7)

Zorzal (+26)
Fred Mannix (+6)
Jason Crowder (+6)
Marianito Obregon (+7)
Mariano Gonzalez (+7)