By Alex Webbe

Sunday wins by Valiente (Bob Jornayvaz, Guillermo Terrera, Alejo Taranco and Adolfo Cambiaso) and Coca-Cola (Gillian Johnston, Sugar Erskine, Pelon Stirling and Julio Arellano) set the stage for Wednesday’s semifinals of the 2015 United States Open Championship at the International Polo Club.

Valiente opened the day with a hotly-contested 13-12 win over Lechuza Caracas (Victor Vargas, Agustin Garcia Grossi, Nico Pieres and Juan Martin Nero), while Coca-Cola closed out the day dispatching FlexJet (Melissa Ganzi, Nic Roldan, Miguel Novillo Astrada and Magoo Laprida) in a 15-10 triumph.

Valiente was taking the field with all four original members of the team on the field after a rash of injuries forced substitutions throughout the tournament. An opening goal from Guillermo Terrera came in the opening minute of the game for an early 1-0 Valiente lead as the two teams sized one another up. Nico Pieres tied the game at 1-1 with a 30-yard penalty conversion at the 3:51 mark for the final goal of the chukker.

Alejo Taranco put Valiente on top, 2-1 in the second chukker with his first goal of the game. Teammate Adolfo Cambiaso made it 3-1 on a 60-yard penalty conversion less than a minute later. Three straight goals from Pieres had Lechuza in the lead, 4-3, with just over a minute on the clock. Ten-goaler Juan Martin Nero scored the final goal of the chukker as Lechuza rode off the field with a 5-3 advantage over Valiente.

Terrera cut the Lechuza lead back to one goal, 5-4, with the first goal of the third period, 5-4, and Cambiaso tied it at 5-5 on another 60-yard penalty shot, 5-5. Nero countered with a goal from the field for Lechuza Caracas for a one-goal lead, 6-5. Cambiaso lit it up with a tying goal with less than two minutes left in the first half, and a goal from the field from Terrera with 53 seconds left in the chukker gave Valiente a narrow 7-6 lead.

Lechuza committed a foul in the opening seconds of the fourth chukker, resulting in a Penalty 1 and the awarding of a goal to Valiente and a throw in 15-yards directly in front of the Lechuza goal. Valiente took control of the ensuing throw-in with Cambiaso adding another goal just seconds later to give Valiente a 9-6, three goal lead. Nero scored the final goal of the chukker at the warning bell that cut the Valiente led to two goals, 9-7.

Pieres and Cambiaso traded goals in the fifth as they alternated 40-yard penalty shots (two apiece) that they converted for scores, 11-9. Agustin Garcia Grossi scored his first goal of the game with just 24 seconds on the clock to cut into the Valiente lead and make it a one-goal game, 11-10. A Lechuza foul sent Cambiaso to the penalty line once again where he converted another 60-yard penalty shot for a goal expanding their lead to 12-10. Pieres countered with a 30-yard penalty shot, 12-11. Taranco scored on a 30-yard penalty shot that stretched the Valiente lead to two goals, 13-11. Pieres answered back with a 60-yard penalty goal with over three minutes on the clock, cutting the lead to one goal,13-12, but that would be where it ended as Valiente held on for the 13-12 victory.

Cambiaso led the Valiente attack with seven goals (six on penalty shots). Terrera added three goals; Taranco scored twice; and they were awarded a goal handicap. Pieres scored nearly nine goals on the field. Pieres led the Lechuza attack with eight goals on the day, and the team awarded a goal as the result of a divot. Nero added three goals and Agustin Garcia Grossi scored his eighth goal of the game. The win boosted Valiente into Wednesday with a pair of goals.

Coca-Cola handles FlexJet in a 15-10 victory

In the second quarterfinal match of the day, FlexJet exploded onto the field with the first two goals of the game. Roldan showed great style as he scored the first goal just 39 seconds in. Miguel Astrada made it 2-0 less than a minute later. Julio Arellano responded with back-to-back 30-yard penalty goals that tied it up, 2-2. Goals from Sugar Erskine, Gillian Johnston and Arellano ended the chukker with FlexJet trailing by three goals, 5-2.

Magoo Laprida scored his first goal of the day cutting the Coca-Cola lead to two goals, 5-3, but Coca-Cola responded. Pelon Stirling scored at the 3:22 mark followed by a goal from Johnston with 27 seconds on the clock for a 7-3 advantage. Roldan and Erskine exchanged goals in a low-scoring third chukker as Coca-Cola left the field at the end of the first half with a four goal, 8-4 lead.

Johnston scored the first goal of the fourth chukker on a beautifully executed backhander that had Coca-Cola in front by five goals, 9-4. Two minutes later Astrada answered with a goal for FlexJet, 9-5. Roldan cut the Coca-Cola lead to three goals with his third goal of the day, 9-6, but goals from Arellano (60-yard penalty conversion) and Erskine closed out the chukker. With two chukkers left in regulation time, Coca-Cola led by five goals, 11-6.

Roldan’s mare, Prima, got FlexJet back into the game in the fifth period as he scored three consecutive goals in three minutes, cutting the Coca-Cola lead to 11-9, but that was where the rally stalled. Erskine scored with 3:16 left in the chukker, 12-9, and Arellano made it 13-9 with his fifth goal of the game and the final goal of the chukker.

Coca-Cola continued to control the game into the sixth chukker. A disciplined defense held FlexJet scoreless as Arellano added two more goals from the field for Coca-Cola for a commanding 15-9 lead. Laprida scored the final goal of the game with less than a minute left, but it was Coca-Cola with the 15-10 victory.

Arellano led all scoring with seven goals (four on penalty shots) and earned MVP honors. Erskine turned in an inspired performance accounting for four goals with Johnston scoring three times and Stirling adding a goal for the win. Roldan set the pace for the FlexJet offense with six goals. Astrada and Laprida scored two goals apiece in the loss.

The 2015 US Open semifinals are scheduled for Wednesday, with Orchard Hill (Steve Van Andel, Gallego Ferrario, Polito Pieres and Facundo Pieres) facing Coca-Cola in a 2:30pm contest followed by a 5pm game between Audi (Marc Ganzi, Rodrigo Andrade, Gonzalito Pieres and Fred Mannix) and Valiente.