U.S. Open Polo Championship® – Day 5

Audi Thrills in Overtime and Pilot Continues Offensive Command in U.S. Open Polo Championship®

Saturday’s doubleheader matches in the U.S. Open Polo Championship® at International Polo Club (IPC) kicked-started on Field 3 with a riveting match-up between Audi and La Indiana. Each looking for their first win of bracket play, the two determined teams matched each other stride for stride, where a spectacular twelve goal performance from Audi’s Bartolome Castagnola lifted Audi to the 13-12 overtime victory. Fresh off winning their second USPA Gold Cup® championship title, Pilot utilized their confidence and horsepower to overtake Cessna in the early stages of the match. Led by 10-goaler Facundo Pieres’ six-goal performance, Pilot accumulated all the offensive in the first half they would need to stave off Cessna in an impressive 6-12 win.

Jumping into the action on Field 3 for the first match of the day, Jeff Hall quickly got La Indiana on the board, but early foul troubles emerged for La Indiana, sending Audi’s Castagnola to the line on back-to-back conversions. Following a third goal in the chukker for Castagnola in the field, the tight defensive play of Audi resulted in Mariano Aguerre and Lucas “Luckitas” Criado Jr. drawing consecutive Penalty 1’s to tie match 3-all. Leading La Indiana with twenty-two penalty goals on the season, Criado Jr. continued to find success from the line on two additional Penalty 2 conversions. Answering from the field, Marc Ganzi escorted the ball across the line, while teammate Castagnola hit the posts twice in open play to give Audi a slim one goal advantage. Driving to the goal once more before the break, Jeff Hall received a brilliant pass from Mariano Aguerre to tie the contested first half 7-all.

Tapping into their recent momentum swing, Criado Jr. opened the second half weaving the ball between traffic to receive La Indiana’s third Penalty 1 of the day. Driving forward into the fifth chukker, Criado Jr. accounted for all three of La Indiana’s goals in the chukker, including his fourth penalty conversion of the match. Keeping pace with La Indiana, Audi’s Castagnola also recorded his fifth goal from the line, to keep a trailing Audi in contention. Entering the sixth chukker with a two-goal deficit, Castagnola matched the power of Criado Jr.’s three goal chukker with one of his own, placing Audi back in the driver’s seat 12-11. With time expiring in regulation, Stewart Armstrong managed to break free of his coverage and take the ball to the goal, re-tying the contest 12-12 and forcing overtime. Committing eighteen fouls throughout the match, La Indiana’s final Penalty 5 would be the most detrimental. With one powerful swing of the mallet from Castagnola at mid-field, the ball sailed the distance and through the posts to give Audi the exhilarating 13-12 overtime victory.

Shifting to Isla Carroll East for the final matchup of the doubleheader, Pilot’s early takeover began with offensive contributions from Facundo Pieres, Mackenzie Weisz and Matias Torres Zavaleta. Second in the GAUNTLET with seventy goals, Pieres’ first half successes included three successful Penalty 2 conversions and one goal in open play. Facilitating for his teammates as captain and offensive leader, Pieres also facilitated an assist to Weisz, who’s ability to create space in the field led to three additional Pilot goals. Pinned largely in their own end of the field against Pilot’s offensive onslaught, Cessna’s Raul “Gringo” Colombres managed to score twice from the field, however, Pilot remained firmly in control leading 8-2 at the half.

Emerging from the break Pilot kept the pressure on their opponents, as another assist from Pieres to Weisz initiated a four-goal run. Leading by a staggering ten goals Cessna’s determination and defensive adjustments finally halted Pilot’s progress. Opening the fifth chukker with back-to-back goals from “Edward” Camp Campbell, Cessna began to find their footing in the field. Cutting the deficit to eight, both Colombres and Campbell found the posts once more in the final chukker of regulation. Despite keeping Pilot off the scoreboard in the final two chukkers of play, Cessna ultimately could not overcome the twelve goals surrendered in the first half, as Pilot doubled up their opponents in the overwhelming 6-12 win.

Bracket play continues in the U.S. Open Polo Championship® at IPC on Sunday, April 3, with Grand Champions facing La Elina on Field 4 at 10:00am ET, while the Feature Game of the Week will see La Fe taking on Tamera at 3:00pm ET on U.S. Polo Assn. Field 1.

Photo Credit ©Alex Pacheco