Orchard Hill and White Birch Advance
to C.V. Whitney Semifinals
The 26-goal season began Friday with two opening games of the C.V. Whitney Cup, the first played at Lechuza Cararcas and the second at the International Polo Club Palm Beach. Both games were so well attended that the sidelines looked like a Sunday featured match. Orchard Hill defeated Valiente 11-8, and White Birch took a 13-11 win over Valiente II. Both Valiente teams are now out of contention in the single-elimination tournament. In next week’s semifinals Orchard Hill will play Lucchese (which got a bye to the semis), and White Birch will play the winner of the last quarterfinal, set for Saturday, Feb. 27, between Coca-Cola and Audi.
Orchard Hill Topples Valiente 11-8
Friday’s C.V. Whitney opener marked the first time Facundo Pieres and Polito Pieres have together faced off against Adolfo Cambiaso since Ellerstina’s crushing one-goal loss to La Dolfina in the final of the 2015 Argentine Open two months ago. In the tent after the final in Palermo, Facundo Pieres sat in stunned silence, staring off into the distance, while Polito Pieres dropped his head into his hands, his face covered by a towel. This time things looked quite different for the Pieres contingent in the jubilant Orchard Hill tent. “It’s always nice to play with Facundo and against Adolfo. They are the two best players in the world,” said Polito Pieres. “Of course after the final (in Palermo) you want to do better the next time. This is not revenge, but it’s good to know that we can play against (Cambiaso) and have a chance to win.”
Although Cambiaso scored all but two of his team’s goals in the C.V. Whitney opener, he and Valiente have seen better days, including their 2015 victory in the United States Open Polo Championship® final. Except for two goals (one each by Cambiaso and Santi Chavanne) in the second chukker, Valiente was scoreless until the fifth chukker, which opened with Orchard Hill leading 8-2. Valiente tightened up the teamwork, which had been lacking beforehand, and propelled Cambiaso into a sustained scoring spree. He added five goals in the last two chukkers as Orchard Hill stalled, letting Valiente move into striking distance. Orchard Hill’s Julian de Lusarreta, in his 26-goal debut, contributed three goals, one from a cannonball 200-yard pass from Facundo Pieres.
Valiente II Succumbs to White Birch 13-11
Valiente II, with three 8-goalers and a 1-goaler in its lineup, started the game with one goal on the board to equalize the handicaps. The firepower on White Birch was similarly distributed, with two 9-goalers, a 7 and a 1. Somehow, though, the math on the rosters didn’t translate to the numbers on the scoreboard. Valiente II just couldn’t get a step on its opponent, scoring only four goals total in the first four chukkers. In the same stretch, an incredibly well mounted Hilario Ulloa slammed in nine goals for White Birch. Going into the fifth chukker White Birch led 11-5. Valiente II suddenly exploded, making six goals in the last two chukkers and keeping White Birch scoreless in the sixth. Time ran out before the team in blue could capitalize on its eleventh-hour momentum, but they did leave White Birch a bit unnerved.
“We played amazing for five chukkers, and the last chukker we didn’t play well at all,” said Ulloa, who is always brutally honest in analyzing his performance. “We were winning and trying to keep that score. Instead of attacking we played too much defense when we should have kept playing our game. But it’s the first game of the 26-goal season, and it can be hard to get a rhythm.”
Both games were live streamed by ChukkerTV, a partner of the USPA Polo Network. Continuous live coverage of the C.V. Whitney Cup resumes with the last quarterfinal match Saturday, Feb. 27, at Lechuza Caracas at 10 a.m. EST.