Wellington, FL - Tension was a living thing at the Monday morning penalty shootout tiebreaker to determine which teams would advance to the semifinals of the hotly-contested Joe Barry Cup at International Polo Club Palm Beach. It crept around between the ponies' hooves, eased up the arms of the players shooting the penalties and unsettled the nerves jangling of even the most ice-cold collected player. Hitting the polo ball 60 yards between the undefended goal posts seems easy on a practice field without anyone watching. But with the ultra-competitiveness of the players and the outcome of the tournament on the line, it seemed more daunting, as if the ball had to travel a mile.
In the penalty shootout tiebreaker, one player from each team hits the ball at the 40-yard line and then at the 60-yard line. At that point, if there is a difference between the shots converted then the shootout is over. If they are even at that point, then players continue taking shots from the 60-yard line until there is a difference.
The shootout started with the Bracket I tiebreaker between the 2-1 teams (Audi, Lucchese, and Tonkawa) to determine 1st, 2nd and 3rd in that bracket. The winner would advance to the coveted automatic berth in the semifinals, the 2nd place would get another chance via yet another shootout against Enigma, the 3rd place team in the Bracket II/III cross section, and the 3rd place Bracket I team would be looking at a spot in the subsidiary semifinal. Nic Roldan (8) for Audi, Nico Pieres (8) for Lucchese and Gonzalo del Tour (7) for Tonkawa were under the gun. All three were even after the mandatory 40 yard and 60 yard shots. As the players continued from the 60 yard line, Pieres converted his shot, catapulting Lucchese into 1st place in Bracket I. While Pieres breathed a sigh of relief on qualifying, the other two continued to shoot from the 60. In the next round, Tonkawa got a reprieve from elimination when del Tour converted his shot, which sent him to the bonus round against Enigma for a chance at the last semifinal position.
In Bracket II, Orchard Hill and Villa del Lago had qualified directly for the semifinals by virtue of their 3-0 records, the best in the league, so those two teams were spared the pressure cooker of the penalty shootout and elected to have a simple coin flip to determine who would place first and second in their league. Villa del Lago won the toss, placing them first in the Bracket II/III cross-section and Orchard Hill second.
This led to the second penalty shootout tiebreaker between third place Bracket II/III team Enigma and second place Bracket I team Tonkawa. The two teams had arrived at this point with an equal 2-1 record, but since they were in separate brackets and had not played each other, the tiebreaker was needed to determine which team had the right to advance. It was crunch time, as this was the last chance for either team to advance to the semifinals of the main Joe Barry Cup draw. Gonzalo del Tour returned to the line for Tonkawa, and Carlucho Arellano (5) stepped up for Enigma. A cool Arellano sank both shots but the 60-yard attempt by del Tour stumbled to a halt just before the goal line. Del Tour cantered up to the line to double check the ball placement. The ball was four inches shy of the line.
Arellano was the only player out of the five to be 100 percent accurate on his shots, when asked the secret to success he replied, "I have a team that I know supports me and has faith in me, and my mom does too!"
Wednesday January 21
1 p.m. Joe Barry Semifinal: Villa del Lago vs Enigma
3 p.m. Joe Barry Semifinal: Lucchese vs Orchard Hill
Thursday January 22
1 p.m. Bobby Barry Semifinal: Tonkawa vs Lechuza
3 p.m. Bobby Barry Semifinal: FlexJet vs Audi
Sunday January 25
Noon Bobby Barry Final
3 p.m. Joe Barry Final