No Enigma About It,This Team is on Fire

Jerome Wirth. Photo: Liz Lamont Images/Phelps Media Group.
Jerome Wirth. Photo: Liz Lamont Images/Phelps Media Group.

Wellington, FL - Hooves were thundering and mallets clacking all day Thursday as the 20-goal Joe Barry Cup continued at the International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington, Florida. Three slam-bam matches carried on nonstop from 10 a.m. until nearly 5 p.m. In the first match, Coca-Cola soundly defeated FlexJet 13-8. Enigma followed with a tight win over Merchant Hub 13-11, and the day closed with Orchard Hill edging out Lechuza Caracas 12-11.

Enigma                           Merchant Hub
Jerome Wirth  1               Scott Swerdlin A
Jeff Hall 7                        Facundo Obregon  6
Matias MacDonough 7     Marianito Obregon 7
Carlucho Arellano 5          Luis Escobar  5

 Facundo Obregon, Mariano Obregon, Matias MacDonough. Photo: Liz Lamont Images/Phelps Media Group.
Facundo Obregon, Mariano Obregon, Matias MacDonough. Photo: Liz Lamont Images/Phelps Media Group.

In its battle with Merchant Hub, Enigma took the mystery out of how to win a closely-matched polo game: teamwork. Merchant Hub made some fine collaborative plays and managed to keep Enigma on its toes throughout the match. But in the end, it all came down to the clean, well-oiled Jeff Hall/Matias MacDonough machine, with the right amount of torque supplied by patron Jerome Wirth and Carlucho Arellano. Eight-goalers Hall and MacDonough made 10 of the team's goals, with three contributed by Arellano.

Enigma's formula - which Hall said after the game had remained unchanged throughout all six chukkers - worked over and over again. Whenever Hall and MacDonough needed backing, Arellano or Wirth seemed to materialize on the spot. The first display of that dynamic came in the second chukker, with the game tied at 3-all. It was grace in motion, with Hall gliding down the field all by himself and working the ball along the side, while Wirth kept the defenders away so he could shoot and score. It was a nice open hustle by the entire team.

Luis Escobar, Mariano Obregon, Carlucho Arellano, Jerome Wirth, Jeff Hall. Photo: Liz Lamont Images/Phelps Media Group.
Luis Escobar, Mariano Obregon, Carlucho Arellano, Jerome Wirth, Jeff Hall. Photo: Liz Lamont Images/Phelps Media Group.

Holding a one-point lead (4-3), Enigma promptly slapped in two more goals, one a deft shot by Arellano and the other a penalty conversion by MacDonough. With the tie broken, the slate was never to be even again. The second chukker ended with a three-point lead for Enigma (6-3). Merchant Hub cranked it up and tightened the gap between Enigma several times in the second half, but it just wasn't enough to break through the "wall of Hall" - who, incidentally, was playing with a separated shoulder he incurred in practice before Enigma's first game last week. "I fell and drove it in (to the ground. It still hurts, but it's getting better every day," he said, adding with a laugh that there are "no substitutes in polo anyway!"

The first half ended with Enigma leading 8-4, thanks to Hall and MacDonough each pounding one in and Facundo Obregon scoring one for Merchant Hub on a penalty conversion. Hall earned the goal with some fancy footwork. He snatched control of the ball at the sideboards, flipped a U-turn, took out the defenders and scored. Merchant Hub rallied, and Obregon made an impressive three goals in chukker four. With the opponents gunning for him - and on one play Escobar almost in his lap - Hall wasn't able to score in the fourth or fifth chukker.

Jeff Hall. Photo: Liz Lamont Images/Phelps Media Group.
Jeff Hall. Photo: Liz Lamont Images/Phelps Media Group.

The fourth ended with Enigma maintaining its lead, 10-7. Merchant Hill tightened the gap, closing out the fifth chukker at 11-10. At the top of the final chukker, for a brief stretch it was anyone's game. Both teams came out fighting hard and never let up. Hall had the final word, scoring the deciding goal of the day. On that play, Escobar scooted the ball down the boards from midfield, only to have MacDonough swoop in and run off with it. Hall yelled "Tranquilo! Tranquilo!" ("Take it easy!").to MacDonough, who handed the ball off to him for a goal.

How did Enigma do it? Said Hall: "We just managed to stay on top of them. They're a tough team, a super team. And we're still kind of finding our rhythm; this was only our second game together. I like (our) team; it's meshing well, and every game just gets a little bit better, and the shoulder feels a little bit better. We're a real defensive-minded team, so if you stake your defense, you know the plays will come."

And indeed they did. Enigma patron Wirth was thrilled with how the team handled it. "I'm very, very happy," said a beaming Wirth. "This was our first victory in the U.S., which for me was quite a great achievement, just after two games. And that was a very good team, a tough one," he said of Merchant Hub. "So I'm happy twice. But congratulations to them, because they made us fight 'til the end."

 

 Marcos Alberdi, Martin Espain, Remy Muller. Photo: Liz Lamont Images/Phelps Media Group.
Marcos Alberdi, Martin Espain, Remy Muller. Photo: Liz Lamont Images/Phelps Media Group.

Orchard Hill Continues Hot Streak, Defeats Lechuza Caracas 12-11
Orchard Hill                Lechuza Caracas
Steve Van Andel A        Victor Vargas  1
Lucas Criado 8              Marcos Alberdi  3
Facundo Pieres 10        Juan Martin Nero 10
Remy Muller 2              Martin Espain 6

This afternoon's match turned out to be a battle between Orchard Hill and Lechuza Caracas.  Lechuza Caracas fought to stay in contention for the Joe Barry Cup, but Orchard Hill emerged victorious after a standout performance, most notably by Lucas Criado.

Facundo Pieres. Photo: Liz Lamont Images/Phelps Media Group.
Facundo Pieres. Photo: Liz Lamont Images/Phelps Media Group.

Facundo Pieres and Lucas Criado scored the only goals of the first chukker, ending the chukker with a 2-0 score in favor of Orchard Hill. Juan Martin Nero put one up on the board for Lechuza Caracas, making the score 2-1. Criado then scored back-to -back goals off of the bowl-in, resulting in Orchard Hill's 4-1 lead. Martin Espain scored on a breakaway, turning into a wide open game. Pieres had a strong shot that was backed out at the goal line by Espain, who was described by the announcer as a "bulldog on defense.".Marcos Alberdi turned that strong defensive play into a goal, drawing Lechuza Caracas closer to Orchard Hill at the end of the second chukker .

Criado scored on a breakway in the beginning of the third chukker, demonstrating the lightning speed that would continue to be a factor throughout the match. Pieres then put another one on the board for Orchard Hill with Criado blocking, making the score 6-3. Nero responded by firing a goal in for Lechuza with Espain blocking. Alberdi was able to close the gap between Lechuza and Orchard Hill, scoring on a drive with a cut shot and ending the third chukker 6-5.

Victor Vargas had a stellar play to start the second half, passing the ball to Nero to even the score 6-6. Remy Muller scored a goal for Orchard Hill, drawing ahead of Lechuza Caracas by one goal. Pieres followed this up with a penalty conversion in a thirty yard undefended shot to lengthen their lead and end the fourth chukker.

Lucas Criado, Facundo Pieres, Juan Martin Nero, Victor Vargas. Photo: Liz Lamont Images/Phelps Media Group.
Lucas Criado, Facundo Pieres, Juan Martin Nero, Victor Vargas. Photo: Liz Lamont Images/Phelps Media Group.

The fifth chukker started with a knock-in by Lechuza Caracas. Pieres showed some of his trademark ball-handling skills by beating his defender down the field and making his fourth goal of the game. After another knock-in by Lechuza Caracas, Criado backed out a goal attempt by Vargas and after a drive by his Orchard Hill teammates was able to work a circle past his defenders to score, making the score 10-6. Pieres subsequently made another goal, and after a wide attempt on back-to-back goals, Criado put one through the goal posts. Nero scored on a breakaway toward end the fifth chukker 12-7.

Criado started out the sixth chukker with a goal attempt that looked to be a sure thing until one last tap had it bouncing off the goalpost wide. Alberdi scored on a backshot to make the score 12-8, and his teammate Nero was able to drive in another goal to attempt to close in on Orchard Hill. Nero had a penalty conversion that resulted in another goal for Lechuza Caracas, and Alberdi ended the game with a backshot to score, resulting in the final score of 12-11 in favor of Orchard Hill.

Criado credited practice and gained confidence for Orchard Hill's spectacular performance today.

"We're improving every game because we couldn't practice much at the beginning of the season," he said. So the horses are improving. With every game, they are getting in shape and  they are getting conditioned. That's why I think every game we are getting a little bit better. That's why you can make those runs and play better." 

Sugar Erskine, Gillian Johnston, Miguel Novillo Astrada, Julio Arellano. Photo: Liz Lamont Images/Phelps Media Group.
Sugar Erskine, Gillian Johnston, Miguel Novillo Astrada, Julio Arellano. Photo: Liz Lamont Images/Phelps Media Group.

Coca-Cola Soars Over FlexJet for a 13-8 Win
Coca-Cola                  FlexJet
Gillian Johnston  2        Melissa Ganzi  A
Sugar Erskine  6           Juan Bollini  5
Julio Arellano 8             Miguel Astrada  9
Mason Wroe 4             Guille Aguero  6

This morning's match of Coca-Cola versus FlexJet was dominated from the beginning by Coca-Cola's superb team play and ball-handling skills. Miguel Novilla Astrada scored the first goal of the match in a penalty conversion from sixty yards. 

Following a penalty conversion attempt, Coca-Cola's Julio Arellano battled his way out of the northeast corner of the field to the goalmouth, leaving the ball for Mason Wroe to score. From the throw-in, Arellano made the pass to Gillian Johnston on a breakway. Johnston took off from mid-field, letting her chestnut mount stretch out and easily scored. Arellano continued his assists later on in the chukker, faking a hit at the ball and leaving it for Sugar Erskine, who drove it through traffic from the Coca-Cola backfield to score, ending the first chukker 3-1.

 Guille Aguero. Photo: Liz Lamont Images/Phelps Media Group.
Guille Aguero. Photo: Liz Lamont Images/Phelps Media Group.

Arellano started the second chukker off strong, tapping a goal in with defensive assistance from Johnston and Erskine. Astrada attempted a sixty yard penalty shot, but it went wide off of Arellano's mallet, leaving the score 4-1. However, Astrada was able to make the conversion off of the resulting safety penalty, bringing the score to 4-2. Arellano put his stellar ball-handling skills to use, once again hitting Johnston on a breakaway for a goal. Arellano completed a penalty conversion before the end of the second chukker, ending it with a score of 6-2.

The third chukker started off with a whistle from the referees immediately after the bowl-in, calling delay of game on Juan Bollini. Even so, Bollini quickly rallied, scoring a goal with a neck shot in heavy traffic, bumping the score to 6-3. Astrada quickly followed that up with another penalty conversion, putting another one on the board. Arellano completed yet another penalty shot following a penalty call immediately after the bowl-in, bringing the score up to 7-4. Astrada spent the last minute and a half of the chukker hunting for a good shot, scoring off of a ground shot with only one second left in the third chukker.

Arellano and Erskine continued to show off their passing game, with Arellano hitting Erskine on the run and returning it to Arellano to score. Johnston was able to follow that up with a run through traffic, putting another one up on the board and making the score 9-5. After a series of penalty calls and a hook by Johnston that foiled another goal attempt by Astrada, the fourth chukker ended.

Guille Aguero Julio Arellano. Photo: Liz Lamont Images/Phelps Media Group.
Guille Aguero Julio Arellano. Photo: Liz Lamont Images/Phelps Media Group.

Arellano started the fifth chukker off with a bang, driving downfield and scoring not even thirty seconds into the chukker.  In the middle of the chukker, Johnston finished off an incredible play, turning right inside of one defender and left out of another, only to have her neck shot go wide of the goal. Astrada was able to capitalize on another penalty conversion, making the score 10-6. At the start of the sixth chukker, Erskine scored off of the bowl-in, bumping the score to 11-6. Arellano had another display of blazing speed, running a goal in wide open. Astrada took a page from Coca-Cola's book, hitting FlexJet teammate Guille Aguero on the run to put one on the board and make it 12-7. Erskine completed yet another Coca-Cola drive from midfield to score. Astrada put the final goal of the game on the board, ending the game with a score of 13-8.

When asked about his team's passing game, Erskine attributed it to strategy.

"We had that discussed earlier where we said we wanted to open it up and use everybody. We pretty much played the first ball, we didn't tap it around too much," he said.  "Whenever we got there, we played our first back shot.  If not, every time we set ourselves up and hit it the first time. We looked for Gillian a lot and she pulled the team a lot."




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