Valiente to Face Orchard Hill in Ylvisaker Cup Final
In Sunday’s Ylvisaker Cup semifinals, Valiente defeated Palm Beach Illustrated/Technogym 13-10 in a continuation game at Valiente, and Orchard Hill snatched a 4-3 overtime victory from Dubai at the International Polo Club Palm Beach (IPC). When Valiente and Orchard Hill meet in the final, it’s going to be a bit of déjà vu for them. The two teams ended the 2015 Florida High-Goal Season battling it out with slightly different lineups for the U.S. Open Polo Championship®, which Valiente won.
Orchard Hill Takes Dubai in Stunning 4-3 Overtime
In what can only be described as “the most exciting low-scoring game” of the high-goal season, 16-year-old Peke Gonzalez, who was named Most Valuable Player, made the winning goal in overtime. Orchard Hill’s semifinal victory over Dubai was remarkable in that only seven goals total were scored in as many chukkers, with just one of them by 10-goaler Facundo Pieres. (His season average is six goals per game.)
Both teams were scoreless in the first chukker, and it was beginning to look like the second would mirror it until Alejo Taranco slammed the ball in for a 1-0 Dubai lead. Orchard Hill did not hit the board until the third chukker, when Gonzalez tied the game. With less than two minutes until halftime Facundo Pieres smacked in a goal for an Orchard Hill lead of 2-1. In the fourth chukker Diego Cavanagh scored from the penalty line for Dubai to tie the game. The score remained there through the fifth, with no goals or fouls. In the middle of the sixth chukker Lucas Criado stunned the crowd, scoring on a belly or “millionaire” shot to break the tie and put Orchard Hill back in the lead 3-2. About 30 seconds later Cavanagh retied the game, and overtime loomed on the horizon. Less than 30 seconds into the seventh chukker Pieres made a shot on goal but just missed, drawing a loud groan from the stands. He tried again a minute later, this time making a tightly calibrated pass to Gonzalez, who tapped the ball in for the winning goal.
“I asked Facundo to hit a long ball, and it landed perfectly in front of me. I tapped it twice on the near side, and the second time I hit it far enough to go in,” said Gonzalez. “I was really happy to score the winning goal because it meant the game was over; it meant that we won and we were going to the finals.”
The legendary horse, Wembley, 23, owned by Valiente and played by Taranco, was named Best Playing Pony. Taranco played Wembley (who Cambiaso has cloned) in last season’s 26-goal for Valiente. “They were about to retire him, but then they offered to lend Wembley to me for the 20-goal,” said Taranco, who is very fond of the horse. “He is such a good boy. He knows his job very well, and I know him very well, so he is really fun to play.”
Valiente Defeats Palm Beach Illustrated/Technogym 13-10
Valiente came into Sunday’s continuation of the semifinal game, which was rained out last week after the second chukker, with a comfortable 6-1 lead. But this time all 6-feet-3 inches of 23-year-old zone back Jesse Bray kicked into gear, and Valiente had to regroup. In the tent after the game, Adolfo Cambiaso and Bob Jornayvaz looked at each other in disbelief. “That kid is one strong (player)!” exclaimed Cambiaso as he and Jornayvaz burst into laughter. Bray’s Kiwi brawn presented a paradigm shift for Cambiaso, whose main challenge in last week’s segment of the game was Jared Zenni. A determined 3-goaler who is particularly skilled at going to the man, Zenni was all over the top player in the world. He ran interference for Facundo Obregon, helping him score eight goals for Palm Beach Illustrated/Technogym.
Cambiaso and teammate Felipe Viana overcame Palm Beach Illustrated/Technogym’s assault, scoring seven and six goals respectively. With 8 out of 10 conversions from the penalty line, the team’s penalty shots were about equally divided between the two. Cambiaso made the call, often on the spot, which of them would take a shot from the line. While Cambiaso has great confidence in his players, he said the deciding factor was whether he had confidence in his mount. If he did not, he passed the stick. Valiente won 13-10.
Both games were live streamed by ChukkerTV, a partner of the USPA Polo Network. The Ylvisaker Cup Finals will be livestreamed by ChukkerTV. Check back at uspolo.orgfor the date and time.
Live coverage of the C.V. Whitney Cup continues Wednesday, March 2, when Lucchese (which got a bye to the semis) faces Orchard Hill at 1 p.m. EST and on Thursday, March 3, when White Birch plays Audi at 11:00 am EST.