After a competitive round of bracket play, four top teams qualified to play cross-bracket semifinals at the International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington, Florida. In the first semifinal held on Sunday, March 11, La Indiana maintained the lead from the onset to claim the first spot 9-6 over Goose Creek. The following Monday morning, March 12, Pilot overpowered Coca-Cola defeating them 13-10. La Indiana will face Pilot in the final this Thursday, March 15, at 3:00pm ET for the chance to immortalize their names on the Iglehart Cup.
Third Time’s a Charm for La Indiana
After a rocky start to the Iglehart Cup and two previous semifinal appearances coming up short, La Indiana regrouped and fought their way into the Iglehart Cup semifinal, challenging Goose Creek for the first position on Sunday, March 11, at the International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington, Florida. Opening strong to secure an early lead, La Indiana’s disciplined play prevented Goose Creek from making any significant comeback, rewarding them with a 9-6 victory.
Launching a swift and aggressive offensive attack, Jeff Hall immediately dominated the opening chukker with a consecutive Penalty 4 conversion and field goal to set the tone. Taking advantage of an easy 30-yard undefended shot on goal, Mariano Gonzalez managed to convert a single Penalty 2, Goose Creek’s only goal of the first half. Goose Creek began to initiate their own strategic plays but were unable to finish, shut down at every opportunity by La Indiana’s advancing defenders. Numerous shots fell wide over the back line and balls were repeatedly deflected by horses during attempts by both teams to score. Closing the third with a Penalty 2 conversion by Ruiz, La Indiana held a comfortable lead 5-1.
Scoreless for the third consecutive chukker, Goose Creek’s shots continued to elude the goal in the fourth, their efforts seemingly futile to turn the game around. Working as a cohesive unit and staying close to the man, La Indiana demonstrated a unity and defensive force that Goose Creek could not shake. Awarded an automatic Penalty 1 goal in the fifth, Goose Creek finally broke the silence, but was immediately answered back by another field goal from Ruiz. Down by five headed into the sixth 8-3, Goose Creek rallied around Mariano Gonzalez who secured his first field goal; Ruiz retaliated with his fifth and final goal. A battle from beginning to end, Goose Creek secured two final goals, ending the game 9-6 and advancing La Indiana into the final.
Following the game Michael Bickford commented, “It feels great, I think we were a little slow to get together as a team, but you can obviously see we are starting to step up the tempo, play a little bit better together and it’s starting to pay off. We’re starting to win games pretty well and feel good as a team.”
“We’re going to prepare for this like we do with everyone else,” said Jeff Hall when asked about the Iglehart Cup Final. “We’re going to watch the tapes, come up with a couple game plans, and still try to play our game. You can’t forget to play your game.”
Pilot Powerfully Pursues the Iglehart Cup Trophy
Rivalling Pilot, the only undefeated team remaining in the tournament, Coca-Cola knew they had to take control early and utilize all four players. Gaining possession from the first throw-in, Sugar Erskine immediately guided the ball to goal and initiated a chain of strong plays by Coca-Cola in the opening chukker. Sensing a threatening shift in the opposition’s strategy since the addition of Nacho Novillo Astrada, Pilot exploded in the second with a ferocious offensive attack resulting in five powerful goals between the Pieres brothers. After six unanswered goals, Coca-Cola was left a bit rattled but nevertheless determined. In a strategic play, Erskine fought past both Pieres brothers to complete an impressive nearside neckshot to goal, ending the third still doubled up 8-4 in favor of Pilot.
Returning in the fourth, each Coca-Cola player set their sights on disrupting Pilot’s command of the field with assertive tactics. Working as a focused team, Coca-Cola enabled Steve Krueger* to make three consecutive goals, moving the scoreboard to within two 7-9. Opening the fourth chukker, Facundo Pieres engaged his horse whose strides devoured the field for another goal. As Coca-Cola continued to go hard against Pilot, their bold advances proved costly in penalty conversion accuracy after Gonzalito Pieres nailed his third Penalty 2 of the game, ending the fifth 11-9. Despite Coca-Cola’s best efforts in every chukker, the deficit on the scoreboard proved insurmountable. Going for a final nearside neckshot only ten feet off the end line, Gonzalito Pieres increased Pilot’s win to 13-10 and cemented their place in the final. The first final this season for the high-goal rookie team, Facundo Pieres commented on the upcoming competition. “I think they [La Indiana] didn’t have a good game against us the last time, but after that, they played two really good games, they won very well with a good difference. I think they are ready and they are playing much better with much more confidence… so, it’s going to be for anybody, whoever plays better that day—it’s going to be tough.”
La Indiana will challenge Pilot in the Iglehart Cup Final on Thursday, March 15, at 3:00pm ET. For those wishing to attend the game at the International Polo Club Palm Beach in person, please visit ipc.coth.com.