Las Monjitas in the Quarterfinals; Pony Express Eliminates Lechuza Caracas
By Alex Webbe
In one of the most inspiring stories of the 2008 US Open Championship, the â€œlittle engine that couldâ€ found out that it couldnâ€™t as the 26-goal Pony Express (1-1) team rode to a hard-fought 11-9 win over Victor Vargasâ€™ 22-goal Lechuza Caracas (0-2) team.
In the opening round of the Piaget Gold Cup Vargas replaced polo superstars Pite Merlos (9) and Sebastian Merlos (10) with the lesser rated Guille Aguero (7) and Sapo Caset (8), dropping the team handicap from 26 to 22-goals. Normally, in polo competition, the lesser handicapped team is â€œspottedâ€ the difference in team ratings by the higher handicapped team, but in the United States Open, the teamâ€™s handicap is not taken into consideration, forcing the game to be played â€œon the flatâ€ or open.
Pony Expressed opened the game with goals from team captain Bob Daniels and 10-goaler Matias Magrini, but a goal from Aguero had Lechuza only trailing by a goal after the first chukker.
â€œTheyâ€™re a very under rated team,â€ said Magrini, â€œthey have some very talented players.
The second chukker belonged to Lechuza as Caset scored three straight goals while the Nicolas Espain led defense held a powerful Pony Express team scoreless.
Caset scored two more goals in the third period, but Pony Express answered with three goals of its own as Magrini scored twice and Daniels added a single goal. It was a new game, but Lechuza enjoyed a narrow 6-5 halftime lead.
A refreshed Pony Express team took to the field in the fourth chukker, scoring two unanswered goals and moving ahead of the scrappy Lechuza team 7-6.
Caset opened the fifth chukker with a penalty conversion followed by a goal from the field to tie and then top Pony Express 8-7. Pelon Sterling scored his first goal of the game followed by a well-placed goal from Roldan to end the chukker with a 9-8 edge.
â€œMy heart was in my throat the whole time,â€ said Daniels. â€œToday was our first test of do or die polo,â€ he added
Magrini scored the first goal of the final chukker as ominous dark clouds surrounded the polo stadium. Casetâ€™s eighth goal of the game closed the gap, but with 1:33 left in the game, he missed a 60 yard penalty shot. Magrini shut the door on Lechuza with his seventh goal of the game for the 11-9 Pony Express win.
When asked when he felt they had control of the game Magrini answered, â€œWhen the final horn sounded.
LAS MONJITAS 11, WHITE BIRCH 8
In earlier US Open action Las Monjitas rallied for an 11-10 win over an upset minded White Birch foursome.
White Birch opened up an early 3-0 and had a 5-1 advantage over Las Monjitas after the second period.
Single goals from Eduardo Astrada, Javier Astrada and Nacho Astrada were answered by a single White Birch goal from Lucas Monteverde, but it was enough for a 6-4 halftime lead.
Three consecutive goals from Las Monjitas were combined with shutout defense, and after four chukkers, Las Monjitas, the 2008 USPA Piaget Gold Cup champion, led 7-6.
The teams each scored two goals in the fifth period with the pace of the game continuing to accelerate.
â€œTheyâ€™re (White Birch) a very strong team,â€ said Las Monjitas team captain, Camilo Bautista, â€œbut weâ€™ve had the pressure on us since the CV Whitney Cup,â€ he added, â€œand we won a difficult game today.â€
Nacho Astrada scored to give Las Monjitas a short-lived 10-8 advantage before Monteverde scored for White Birch. Eduardo Astrada made it 11-9, but Martin Aguerreâ€™s fourth goal of the game made it a one goal game. Las Monjitas shut down a couple of last ditch efforts by White Birch in the sixth chukker, and time expired with Las Monjitas earning a berth in the quarterfinals.
US Open polo competition will continue on Wednesday with the final elimination round of play before the quarterfinal with Zacara facing Audi at noon; and two games at 3pm with Black Watch playing Pony Express and White Birch meeting Isla Carroll.