Valiente and Alegria inPiaget Gold Cup finals
By Alex Webbe
Wednesday semifinal wins by Valiente (Bob Jornayvaz, SantiTorres, Sapo Caset and Adolfo Cambiaso) and Alegria (Julian Mannix, ClementeZavaleta, Mariano Aguerre and Hilario Ulloa) set the stage for theInternational Polo Clubâ€™s penultimate high goal final in the title game of the2014 USPA Piaget Gold Cup Sunday afternoon.
In the afternoonâ€™s first semifinal, Valiente and Audi (MarcGanzi, Gonzalito Pieres, Rodrigo Andrade and Gonzalo Del Tour) battled atalented Audi team to a 6-5 halftime lead before racing away from them insecond half action to register a decisive 14-10 win and earn a berth in Sundayâ€™stournament final.
Valienteâ€™s talented 6-goaler Santi Torres got the scoringstarted early as he gave Valiente the early 1-0 lead less than 20 seconds in tothe match. Teammate Sapo Caset made it2-0 before Audi could respond. Audi10-goaler Gonzalito Pieres finally got his team on the scoreboard with a goal fromthe field followed by a tying goal from Brazilâ€™s Rodrigo Andrade, 2-2. Adolfo Cambiaso gave Valiente the lead againwith 1:06 on the clock, 5-4. Torres extendedto Valiente lead to two goals with his second goal of the game to end the firstchukker on top of a 4-2 score.
Valiente continued to hold the lead throughout the followingchukker on the strength of a pair of goals from Sapo Caset (one on a penalty shot). Audi responded with single goals from Pieres(penalty conversion) and Gonzalo Del Tour. Valiente continued to lead, 6-4.
Andrade managed to shave the Valiente lead back down to asingle goal, 7-6, scoring twice from the field. Cambiaso scored for Valiente who stayed in front at the end of the firsthalf, 7-6.
The Valiente attack swarmed Audi as second half play gotstarted. Goals from Caset and Cambiasowere the only scores of the chukker. TheValiente lead had grown to three goals, 9-6.
Four more fifth chukker Valiente goals ran the score up to 13-8with Audi having no answer for the Valiente attack. Caset scored twice with Santos and Cambiasoadding single goals. Audi was held to apenalty goal from Pieres and a goal from the field from team captain MarcGanzi. It was Valiente firmly in controlfor the final chukker.
Pieres cut the lead back to four goals, 13-9, in the opening38 seconds of the sixth. Despite anumber of runs at the Valiente goal, Audi couldnâ€™t add to it. Caset converted a 60-yard penalty shot for agoal, 14-9 at the 4:38 mark with Audi trying desperately to stage a rally. With time running out, Andrade scored on a greatpersonal effort with 1:13 left in the game, but that would be the end of it. The final horn sounded for the 14-10 Valientevictory.
Caset led all scoring with seven goals (four on penaltyconversions). Cambiaso added four goalsand Torres scored three times. Andradeand Pieres each scored four goals (Pieres scored three penalty goals). Ganzi and Del Tour each added a goal in alosing effort.
The victory boosts Valiente into the finals of the 2014 USPAPiaget gold cup and offers them the opportunity of scoring a third consecutiveGold Cup win.
ALEGRIA 8, LECHUZACARACAS 7 OT
Alegria (Julian Mannix, Clemente Zavaleta, Mariano Aguerreand Hilario Ulloa) managed to score a come-from-behind overtime win over LechuzaCaracas (Victor Vargas, Nico Pieres, Juan Martin Nero and Nico Espain)Wednesday afternoon to earn a finalist spot in the Piaget Gold Cup on Sunday.
In a game that looked more like â€œThe Gang That Couldnâ€™t ShotStraightâ€ than some of the best polo players in the game, the two teams wentscoreless through the first chukker and nearly another five minutes of thesecond.
Lechuza Caracas team captain Victor Vargas scored the openinggoal of the match with less than three minutes left in the second period forthe 1-0 lead. Nico Pieres made it 2-0with a 60-yard penalty conversion at 1:31 to end the chukker.
Hilario Ulloa scored Alegriaâ€™s first goal in the first 29seconds of the third chukker, 2-1, bur Lechuza Caracas roared back with consecutivegoals from Pieres (penalty goal) and 10-goaler Juan Martin Nero, 4-1. Julian Mannix scored the final goal of thechukker for Alegria to cut the lead back to two goals, 4-2.
The two teams traded goals in the fourth with Pieres puttingLechuza Caracas ahead by three goals, 5-2 on a goal from the field. Ulloa responded at the 1:59 mark with apenalty conversion to end the chukker trailing Lechuza Caracas, 5-3.
Ulloa jumped into the mix early again in the fifth period,scoring a goal that cut the Lechuza Caracas lead to a single goal, 5-4. Clemente Zavaleta tied it up for Alegria,5-5, on a penalty conversion at 6:12. Goals from Nero and Pieres (penalty goal), however, ended the chukkerwith Lechuza Caracas in the lead by two goals, 7-5.
Alegria turned up the heat in the sixth. Mannix brought Alegria to within a goal ofthe lead, 7-6, with a goal on a breakaway just 17 seconds into the chukker. Two minutes later Ulloa had it all even on agoal from the field. Both teamsstruggled to earn the go-ahead goal, but when the final horn sounded it was alleven at 7-7.
After a brief recess both teams returned to the field forthe overtime chukker. Experiencing thesame series of missed shots on goal that they had earlier in the game, both Alegriaand Lechuza Caracas suffered a number of missed opportunities. Finally, with 3:30 left in the overtime period,Ulloa broke through the Lechuza Caracas defense to score the winning goal, 8-7.
Ulloa led the field with five goals on the day, includingthe game winner. Mannix added two goalsand Zavaleta added a goal for the win. Pieres scored three of his team high four goals on penalty shots. Nero added two goals and Vargas scored oncein the loss.
The victory sends Alegria into Sundayâ€™s Piaget Gold Cupfinals against the defending championship Valiente team, a team that hasalready captured the 26-goal C. V. Whitney Cup and seems determined to sweep Floridaâ€™s2014 high-goal season.