Hot off last week's win in the Herbie Pennell Cup final, Coca-Cola commanded the field again on the opening day of the 2016 Joe Barry Cup. Coca-Cola took a 12-8 win over Tonkawa and stands undefeated after three games in the 20-goal season at the International Polo Club Palm Beach (IPC). Earlier in the day Enigma defeated La Indiana 12-9.
Gillian Johnston 2
Sugar Erskine 7
Julio Arellano 8
Steve Krueger 3
Jeff Hildebrand A
Gonzalo Deltour 7
Sebastian Merlos 9
Mason Wroe 4
Coca-Cola came out gunning right from the chute and for 42 minutes straight never let its opponent get an inch ahead. Although Tonkawa tied the game a few times, it just couldn't get the jump on Coca-Cola. It was a departure from Coca-Cola's cat-and-mouse style in its two previous games, in which it toyed with its opponent for the first half and then pounced for the win. This time Coca-Cola was full-tilt-boogey from the get-go. That was exactly as planned. "We had a game plan to try to start strong, and we were able to and capitalize on our opportunities," said Julio Arellano.
Coca-Cola played in madcap tag team style throughout the game, with a flurry of deft handoffs that rolled into one goal after another. In one breath Gillian Johnston passed to Sugar Erskine, who scampered into goal with the ball; in the next it was an Erskine-to-Johnston goal. Blink your eyes and Julio Arellano was doing the tango with one of the two to make the score. Wait long enough and all three of them were in on the act.
Erskine and Arellano were as much of a force defensively as they were offensively. Arellano scored six goals, all the while making Sebastian Merlos' life as difficult as possible. He was all over the field, and they were all over him as much as they could. Merlos returned the favor regularly, making Coca-Cola work for every point. Even while heavily defended, Merlos' impeccable hand-eye coordination delivered some jaw-dropping goals, starting at the close of the first chukker, which ended with Coca-Cola leading 3-2.
Arellano and Steve Krueger, a new addition to the Coca-Cola 20-goal roster this season, showed slick teamwork. On a powerful pass from Arellano in the second chukker, Krueger pulled out ahead, playing stick-and-ball all the way down the field to bring his team to a two-goal lead.
Merlos, as always superbly mounted, and Gonzalo Deltour made a serious presence on the field. They played like 10s all day. Deltour took a pass from Merlos and made a speed-demon run into goal, tightening the gap to 4-3. Coca-Cola poured it on, taking an 8-5 lead at the end of the first half.
Jeff Hildebrand played above his handicap, making some spectacular goals. In the fourth chukker he picked up the ball from Merlos and repeatedly hit it to himself on a run into goal, all the while being chased mercilessly by Krueger. Direct from the next throw-in and all in one hit, Arellano scored on a stunning three-quarter neck shot along the ground, taking Coca-Cola to a 10-6 lead to close out the fourth chukker.
Each team made two goals in the fifth but were scoreless in the final chukker, with the game ending 12-8 for Coca-Cola.
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