Wellington, Fla. – March 19, 2017 – Valiente and Coca-Cola ruled their respective fields Sunday in a USPA Gold Cup® double-header at the International Polo Club Palm Beach (IPC). Valiente defeated Orchard Hill 14-10, and Coca-Cola bested Audi 11-8. The results set the semifinal pairings for Wednesday, March 22: Valiente will play Audi, and Orchard Hill will oppose Coca-Cola.
In Sunday’s third game of the tournament, Orchard Hill faced off against a Valiente team that remains undefeated in 26-goal competition. Robert Jornayvaz played in place of his father, patron Bob Jornayvaz, who spent most of last week traveling and developed flu symptoms. The decision was made Friday to substitute the younger Jornayvaz, giving him just one day to practice with the team.
The substitution started Valiente (a 25-goal team because of Sunday’s roster) with a goal on handicap to begin the game. Valiente applied the pressure early, with Matias Torres Zavaleta scoring the first goal of the game from the field. While the team controlled play in the first chukker—not allowing Orchard Hill to get even one shot on goal—Valiente committed 5 fouls. Fortunately for Valiente, only one of those fouls resulted in a penalty attempt for Facundo Pieres, which he converted. Zavaleta added two more goals early in the second chukker, along with Adolfo Cambiaso.
It looked like Valiente was going to run away with the game, but Orchard Hill quickly answered with Pieres scoring three straight goals to get his team back in the game. The day turned into a Facundo-fest for Orchard Hill, with Pieres scoring all the team’s goals. Valiente has been consistent using Cambiaso at back, allowing Zavaleta and Diego Cavanagh to drive forward, and that was never more evident than in this game. Cambiaso only came forward when he saw an opening, shooting at goal 5 times for the game and converting 3, while Zavaleta shot at goal 8 times, converting 6. Cambiaso was effective staying back, which prevented Orchard Hill from ever fully breaking away for runs in open play.
Usually a big scoring threat, Polito Pieres was held scoreless, only shooting at goal once throughout the game. By minimizing Polito’s impact on the game, Cambiaso and Valiente gave themselves an edge as Facundo Pieres had to generate all of the offense for Orchard Hill with Juan “Jota” Chavanne blocking downfield.
Facundo Pieres singlehandedly kept his team in the game. He took advantage of Valiente fouls to shoot a perfect 6 for 6 from the penalty line while also adding 4 goals from the field for a total of 10 goals on the day. Orchard Hill experienced an unfortunate touch of déjà vu from their first game in the Gold Cup. They struggled to convert shots from the field, only shooting 4 of 12 (33%) as a team. The missed Orchard Hill chances, combined with Valiente’s strong team performance (led by Zavaleta with 6 goals), propelled Valiente to the 14-10 victory and number one seed heading into the semifinals.
Coca-Cola Defeats Audi
Both teams in the 3 p.m. featured match were looking to bounce back from their close opening games, in which each fell short by one goal. It was all Coca-Cola early on, as they shot at goal 5 times in the opening chukker. The team in red converted 4 of those chances, all courtesy of Julian de Lusarreta, who emerged as an offensive force that Audi didn’t seem to have an answer for.
Just as de Lusarreta controlled play for Coca-Cola in the first chukker, Tomas Pieres broke out for Audi in the second, scoring 3 goals from the field to help get his team back within one goal. Aside from that stretch, Coca-Cola capitalized on tight teamwork, with Miguel Novillo Astrada, Julio Arellano and de Lusarreta all driving forward at different times. The three players seemed to sense when the others were moving forward and positioned themselves accordingly. Patrona Gillian Johnston provided constant pressure downfield as a threat to receive a pass and score, which she did in the fifth chukker.
After a tough penalty-shooting day in the opening round of the Gold Cup, Audi struggled once again to convert their penalty attempts, only making 1 of their 4 opportunities. Fouls were a rare occurrence throughout the second half, with only 3 whistles blown, resulting in a back-and-forth contest with just 12 fouls called the entire game.
The pivotal point in the game came in the fourth chukker. Coca-Cola used halftime to regroup and dominated the fourth, scoring four times, while Audi wasn’t able to manage a shot or penalty attempt. The 4-0 chukker for Coca-Cola gave them a 9-6 lead, and they didn’t look back. Coca-Cola finished with an 11-8 victory, led by de Lusarreta’s 6 goals on the game, to set up a semifinal match-up with Orchard Hill.
Arellano was named MVP. The Best-Playing Pony award went to “Cream,” owned and played by de Lusarreta.
The tournament continues Wednesday with the semifinals. Valiente plays Audi at noon, and Orchard Hill takes on Coca-Cola at 3 p.m. The final is Sunday, March 26 at 3 p.m.
All games in the 2017 USPA Gold Cup® are being live streamed on the USPA Polo Network: uspolo.org.
Game report, stats and photographs provided by International Polo Club Palm Beach.