Alegria Assist Card, Las Monjitas Advance to USPA Piaget Gold Cup Semifinals

Mar 16th, 2015 | By | Category: English Polo News

16 Mar 2015

Las Monjitas Shuts Out Lechuza Caracas 10-6

Alegria Assist Card and Las Monjitas secured places in the USPA Piaget Gold Cup semifinals, winning their respective quarterfinal matches Sunday at the International Polo Club Palm Beach (IPC). Alegria Assist Card took Valiente 14-8, and Las Monjitas defeated Lechuza Caracas 10-6 in the featured match on Engel & Völkers field. Facundo Sola was named MVP, and Nico Pieres’ mount Tapado won the Best-Playing Pony award.

Las Monjitas                           Lechuza Caracas
Camilo Bautista   A                  Victor Vargas   1
Facundo Sola   8T                    Nico Pieres   8
Sebastian Merlos   9                Agustin Garcia Grossi   7
Eduardo Astrada   9                 Juan Martin Nero   10


Camilo Bautista and Victor Vargas.
Photo: Liz Lamont Images/Phelps Media Group.


Las Monjitas had some important things going for it when it rode into the match against Lechuza Caracas. The first was its heavy lineup of powerhouse players: 9-goalers Eduardo Astrada and Sebastian Merlos, plus Facundo Sola. Although rated at 8 goals, Sola’s impenetrable moves, which earned him the MVP award, made him for the most part indistinguishable on the field from Astrada and Merlos.


The other weapon in Las Monjitas’ arsenal was an intangible: strategy. The team’s pivotal decision to change the positions of two key players paid off in spades. Sola normally plays forward, and Merlos plays in the back. This time, however, they swapped roles. The result was a success, but it took some time to gel. The first chukker ended in a 1-1 tie.


Juan Martin Nero. Photo: Liz Lamont Images/Phelps Media Group.

“At the beginning it was a little complicated for us to get the new positions,” said Astrada.

Sola concurred. “It was tough,” he said. “We had patience and we had luck.” Sola was himself a study in patience, a trait that became evident straight away in the first chukker. On a breakaway, he looked downfield and saw the looming threat of 10-goaler Juan Martin Nero. Unshaken, Sola read the play and pulled away from Nero, then got the line and scored. His field control was so solid that it looked as though he had plotted it out days ago on a chessboard.


Sola’s precision clockwork with Merlos and Astrada accounted for a number of goals, beginning in the second chukker with a bing-bang-boom handoff from Sola to Merlos to Astrada, who hit the ball into goal. (After the match Merlos said he had only one word to describe it: “Beautiful -OK, two words – very beautiful.”)


Eduardo Astrada, Juan Martin Nero and Agustin Garcia Grossi.
Photo: Liz Lamont Images/Phelps Media Group.


Meanwhile, Nero and Nico Pieres, frequently working in tandem, gained some ground for Lechuza Caracas. Las Monjitas was quick on the comeback, though, moving into a one-point lead in the second and third chukkers. In the third, Pieres worked his way around a determined Merlos (not an easy thing to do) and scored. As the speed and intensity of the game accelerated, Sola took a hard bump from Pieres but kept control of the ball until Agustin Garcia Grossi swooped in. The ball popped up in the air above the heads of Garcia Grossi and Sola and flew down the field between them. Both trying to stab the ball out of the air, their mallets clicked and almost tangled.


Juan Martin Nero and Sebastian Merlos.
Photo: Liz Lamont Images/Phelps Media Group.


The fourth chukker ended with a 5-5 tie. Las Monjitas came on like gangbusters in the fifth, making three goals (two by Merlos and one by Sola) and keeping Lechuza Caracas scoreless. Garcia Grossi scored in the final chukker, but it wasn’t enough to turn the tide. Astrada contributed a goal, and Sola pounded in two more, ending the game 10-6 for Las Monjitas.

Alegria Assist Card Takes Valiente by Storm 14-8

Alegria Assist Card defeated Valiente 14-8 in the quarterfinals of the USPA Piaget Gold Cup at the International Polo Club (IPC) on Sunday, securing a place in Wednesday’s semifinal match against Orchard Hill.

Alegria Assist Card                           Valiente
Julian Mannix   4                                 Bob Jornayvaz   2
Hilario Ulloa   9                                   Guillermo Terrera   8
Mariano Aguerre   9                             Alejo Taranco   6
Sterling Giannico   4                            Adolfo Cambiaso   10


Adolfo Cambiaso and Hilario Ulloa.
Photo: Liz Lamont Images/Phelps Media Group.

“That’s the way we do it!” shouted a jubilant Julian Mannix to his teammates as they rode in from the field together after defeating Valiente.


There was no question that the team was in it to win it, right out of the box. Alegria Assist Card got the jump on Valiente in the first play of the match, with Mariano Aguerre racing out of the throw-in to score the first goal of the day. Valiente mustered up a fight, clinging to a slim lead for the first two chukkers, but Alegria slammed the door in the third. At the end of the first half the game was tied at 5-all – and from that point on Alegria Assist Card was a runaway train, stretching its lead throughout the second half to end the game with a commanding six-point lead.


If you ask Aguerre, it all came down to keeping to the plan. “We maintained an order,” he said with a steely-eyed resolve. “We can be deadly when we play that way.”


Julian Mannix and Alejo Taranco.
Photo: Liz Lamont Images/Phelps Media Group.


They can, and they were. Alegria Assist Card established its dominance so methodically that the fact that it was taking over the game seemed to sneak up on Valiente. Alegria Assist Card demonstrated its teamwork early on. In the second chukker Aguerre sent the ball to Ulloa, who tied the game 3-3. Adolfo Cambiaso countered with a goal for Valiente, but Mannix went on a hot streak from the penalty line, again tying the score.


The second half opened at 5-all, and Alegria Assist Card promptly took charge. Ulloa ran a goal in, and from there Alegria Assist Card’s momentum grew. Alejo Taranco made a stupendous defensive play for Valiente, knocking Ulloa’s next goal attempt out of the goal mouth at the last second. Mannix, however, couldn’t be stopped as he accelerated past defenders to drive a goal in, making the score 7-5.


Aguerre fed Ulloa the ball on the run, and at the end of the fourth chukker Ulloa made his fourth goal of the day (to be followed by two more before the game was over). Ulloa was a force of nature throughout the match, dizzying his defenders with his ability to read plays in advance, materialize wherever he was needed and hit power drives with amazing accuracy.


Hilario Ulloa. Photo: Liz Lamont Images/Phelps Media Group.


Valiente rallied briefly in the fifth chukker and began to close the gap with two penalty conversions. Terrera slammed in a goal on the run. Mannix converted to maintain Alegria Assist Card’s lead, which had stretched to three points. Alegria Assist Card ran its opponents ragged in the final chukker, racking up four more points to end the match 14-8.


Aguerre said it was more a matter of not losing the game than winning it. “We knew we had to maintain the order,” he said. “If we lose that system, we become very vulnerable. Today the team focused, and it was going to be a matter of who loses first. They did before us.”


Mannix called the match “do or die time,” adding that his team and his horses performed extremely well under pressure. “If we lost, it was over for us. It’s fun to play those games. Top to bottom, all my horses played well, which is a testament to the hard work by everybody in the barn and on our team.”


Ulloa said the key was that everyone kept a cool head. “We never got upset or angry. That’s one of our problems sometimes,” he said. “We helped each other, and we really played as a team. We played smart, and we played having fun – that was the main thing.


Bob Jornayvaz, Adolfo Cambiaso, Alejo Taranco, Sterling Giannico and Hilario Ulloa. Photo: Liz Lamont Images/Phelps Media Group.


For him a major part of the fun – and the challenge – was playing against Cambiaso. “You’re playing against the best guy in the world and probably the best team in the world with the most organization. So it’s always a good thing to try your horses and try your team (against them),” he said. Defeating Valiente “shows that we are now one of the top organizations too. We are there. Sometimes you win; sometimes you lose. We won.”

Play continues Wednesday, March 18 at IPC. Audi plays Las Monjitas at 2 p.m., followed by Orchard Hill versus Alegria Assist Card at 4:30 p.m. Audi and Orchard Hill are undefeated thus far in the tournament.
Liberty Cup Results

DePaula Chevrolet
Joe Meyer   1
Carlitos Gracida   4
Matias Magrini   8
Mariano Gracida   4

Robert Jornayvaz   1
Julian Daniels   6
Santi Torres   7
Stevie Orthwein   4

DePaula Chevrolet defeated Valiente 13-9 in the semifinals of the 18-goal Liberty Cup on Friday. The final will be played Thursday, March 19 at noon at IPC.
Source: Phelps Media Group