Las Monjitas and White Birch in US Open Semifinals
By Alex Webbe
The second semifinals of the 2008 US Open semifinals were finalized today with wins from both Las Monjitas and White Birch assuring the teams of a showdown in Wednesdayâ€™s semifinals.
Las Monjitas scored an impressive 13-11 win over a lackluster Black Watch performance that did little to showcase the talents of its players.
The Novillo Astrada family is widely respected in the field of polo, and their ability to defensively check their opposing players is well known. What wasnâ€™t as well known in the US is their ability to score goals, and today they had an opportunity to impress that ability on every polo spectator present at the International Polo Club in Wellington.
Jumping out to a 9-4 lead after the first three chukkers of play, Las Monjitas relied on goals from brothers Eduardo, Javier and Nacho Novillo Astrada as well as team captain Camilo Bautista in a well-balanced attack that had Black Watch reeling.
Black Watch gained no ground in the fourth chukker as single goals from brothers Pablo and Matias MacDonough were answered by two goals from Eduardo Astrada. Going into the fifth chukker, Las Monjitas lead 11-6.
A single goal from Eduardo Astrada was all Las Monjitas could muster in the way of offense in the fifth frame, and single goals from the MacDonough brothers cut the lead to four goals, 12-8.
Black Watch continued to press the attack in the final chukker, scoring three consecutive goals to trail 12-11, but a final goal by Javier Astrada stopped the Black Watch assault, ending the game with a 13-11 Las Monjitas win.
The win puts Las Monjitas, the 2008 Piaget Gold Cup Champion, into Wednesdayâ€™s semifinals against White Birch.
WHITE BIRCH 16, ZACARA 13
In a high-scoring thriller Lucas Monteverde scored 11 goals in a game for the second time in less than a week in leading White Birch to a 16-13 win over Zacara in the quarterfinals of the US Open.
Three-goaler Martin Donovan was playing for team captain Peter Brant and added an extra punch to an already high-powered attack.
In an up and down opening half, White Birch went up 4-3 after the first chukker and held a 6-5 lead after two. Each team scored three goals in the third chukker to give White Birch a 9-8 edge at the end of the first half.
The turning point in the game came in the fourth chukker when on the strength of two goals from Monteverde and a single goal from Donovan, White Birch rode out to a 12-9 lead.
Goals from Martin Aguerre and Mariano Aguerre extended the White Birch lead to four goals, 14-10, with Carlos Gracida scoring a single penalty goal for Zacara.
Zacara tried desperately to get back into the game again in the final chukker, but cutting into a four goal lead with seven-and-a-half minutes left in regulation play is ambitious for the most talented teams. Two goals from Mike Azzaro and a sixth goal from Gracida were offset by two goals from Monteverde. Time expired with White Birch preserving a 16-13 win and a berth in Wednesdayâ€™s semifinals against Las Monjitas.
Open play will continue on Wednesday, April 16 with Pony Express meeting 2007 defending US Open Champion Crab Orchard at noon, and Las Monjitas facing White Birch at 3pm.
photos by Gregory S. Ratner,Ratner Sports Photography