WELLINGTON, Fl., April 17, 2017---Audi’s second-half rally fell short as Orchard Hill held on for an 11-10 victory in the mini-quarterfinals of the 113th U.S. Open Sunday at International Polo Club Palm Beach.
It was the second time the defending champions defeated the Grand Champions Polo Club-based pro team. In their first meeting, Orchard Hill defeated Audi, 12-8.
The second time around, Audi Audi (Marc Ganzi, Nic Roldan, Magoo Laprida, Alejandro Novillo Astrada) was well-prepared for Orchard Hill (Polito Pieres, Juan Chavanne, Facundo Pieres, Steve Van Andel).
“It was a tough game,” Van Andel said. “All the teams that are in the U.S. Open are really tough. We had to just make sure we had both offense and defense.
“Audi is a team you have to do both against. We had to be careful not to let anybody through but on the other hand we had to keep attacking and it worked.”
After a slow offensive first half, trailing 6-3, Audi came alive in the second half forcing Orchard Hill into making mistakes and sending Audi to the penalty line where Roldan was 5-for-5 in second-half penalty attempts.
Audi outscored Orchard Hill, 2-1, in the fourth and fifth chukkers. In the fifth chukker, an incredible goal by Laprida at the 4:09 mark had Audi trailing by one, 7-6. Polito Pieres quickly struck back on a breakaway goal at 3:06 to give Orchard Hill an 8-6 lead. After Polito Pieres was assessed a right-of-way penalty on Laprida, Roldan converted a penalty-three to close the gap by one goal again, 8-7.
With 2:53 remaining in the fifth chukker, Audi was assessed a penalty on Facundo Pieres scoring attempt to give Orchard Hill another two-goal lead.
Audi controlled possession, limiting Orchard Hill to four shot attempts from the field in the second half but Orchard Hill made good use of them, converting all four. Facundo Pieres opened the sixth chukker with a 90-yard cut shot lofted through the goal posts to extend his team’s lead to three (10-7).
Roldan converted a penalty-four at 5:03 to trail by two. After Audi missed a scoring opportunity with3:47 left, Polito Pieres scored on another fast break with 2:42 left for an 11-8 lead. Audi was then awarded a penalty-one on Roldan’s scoring attempt, to trail 11-9 with 37 seconds left. Roldan scored again just before the horn.
“After we played them the first time and knowing that we won the other day they changed a lot of things and played like they had nothing to lose,” Facundo Pieres said.
“They are a very good team and we knew it was going to be tough,” Pieres said. “They like to play fast polo. We knew it was going to be complicated but we also knew if we did things right we would have our chances.”
Orchard Hill advanced into Wednesday’s semifinal against Grand Champions Polo Club-based Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, Rodrigo Andrade, Gonzalito Pieres, Nico Pieres) at 11 a.m. Flexjet is the only undefeated team (3-0) remaining in the six-team tournament.
“We’ll see what happens,” Van Andel said. “I think Flexjet is a really good team. When you have four Pieres on two teams it’s going to be a good game.”
Van Andel said returning as the tournament’s defending champion has been challenging.
“I am super happy to be doing it again,” Van Andel said. “I think it’s a great thing being here. We certainly would like to take home two trophies, but if we don’t, we are having a good time doing it.”
Added Facundo Pieres, “I wish we could play Valiente. You have to forget they are brothers.”
In the other semifinal on Wednesday, Valiente will play Travieso, making its 26-goal debut, at 5 p.m. Travieso defeated Coca-Cola, 12-10, in the featured stadium game. Travieso’s Alfredo Capella was named MVP. Merlos’ home-bred 9-year-old Guri mare Pipi was Best Playing Pony, an honor it has also won at Grand Champions.
Travieso got its start at Grand Champions Polo Club in the medium goal and worked its way to high goal. Travieso, led by Argentine 9-goaler Sebastian Merlos, won two 20-goal tournaments at Grand Champions, the Sterling Cup and Molina Cup, as a lead-up to the U.S. Open.
Facundo Pieres scored a game-high seven goals. Polito Pieres added three goals and Orchard Hill was awarded a penalty-one late in the fifth chukker.
Roldan led Audi scoring with five goals. Ganzi had two goals, Laprida and Novillo Astrada each had one goal and Audi had a penalty-one in the sixth chukker.
Both teams had nearly identical stats. Audi converted 5-of-8 shots from the field and Orchard Hill was 8-of-12. Audi was 5-of-6 in penalty conversions, all by Roldan. Audi had 10 fouls and Orchard Hill had nine. Orchard Hill led in throw-ins, 13-12.
Rated No. 1 by Consumer Reports as the best auto brand overall, Audi is a valued sponsor with a rich winning tradition in polo. The German automobile manufacturer designs, engineers, produces, markets and distributes luxury automobiles throughout the world including West Palm Beach.
The tournament is being live-streamed on the USPA Polo Network at uspolo.org with content provided by production company and Wellington-based ChukkerTV. All games will also be available for on-demand viewing.
Grand Champions Polo Club, with its eleven well-manicured polo fields, caters to men, women and youth polo players at all levels. Its’ expert staff can customize a complete playing experience including horses, pros and certified umpires in addition to lessons and practice sessions as part of its’ Polo On Demand program, the only polo club in the U.S. to offer the unique program.
The Polo School at Grand Champions, a 501c3 organization, is dedicated to teaching polo to all ages, particularly grass roots youth. Its mission is to provide individuals in all walks of life opportunities in polo. The Polo School operates in Wellington January through June and September through November.
2017 GRAND CHAMPIONS WINTER SCHEDULE
(Subject to change because of weather and scheduling conflicts).
APRIL 21-23: GCPC Abierto.
APRIL 28-30: USPA Eastern Challenge.
MAY 5-7: USPA Sun Cup
MAY 12-14: The Spring Challenge Cup.
MAY 19-21: Polo Gear Invitational.
MAY 26-29: The Memorial.
GRAND CHAMPIONS POLO CLUB
WHERE: 13444 Southfields Road, on the corner of South Shore Boulevard and Lake Worth Road, Wellington, 33414.
INFORMATION: For spectators, there are great field side views for tournament action and also the Grand Champions Polo Club Boutique. The club is home base for pro teams Audi and Flexjet. Everyone is welcome to watch every level of polo in a relaxed atmosphere that includes food and refreshments during the featured games of the winter, spring and fall tournament seasons and other special events. Admission is free except for some special events.