Las Monjitas Wins With Authority Defeats Engel & Völkers 18-8

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Facundo Sola and Santi Torres. Photo: Alex Pacheco.
Facundo Sola and Santi Torres. Photo: Alex Pacheco.

Las Monjitas defeated Engel & Völkers 18-8 in bracket play in the USPA Piaget Gold Cup at the International Polo Club Palm Beach.

Engel & Völkers                           Las Monjitas
Jared Zenni   3                               Camilo Bautista   A
Santi Torres   7                              Facundo Sola   8T
Matias Magrini   8                           Sebastian Merlos   9
Kris Kampsen   6                            Eduardo Astrada   9

The match started off with Engel & Völkers in the lead by two points due to their handicap. It quickly took the initiative to increase that lead with Kris Kampsen scoring the first goal on the field from the bowl-in. Kampsen continued to increase the Engel & Völkers lead by converting a penalty shot later in the chukker. Facundo Sola promptly went to work closing the gap, scoring three goals by the end of the first chukker to make the score 4-3.

Jared Zenni and Sebastian Merlos. Photo: Alex Pacheco
Jared Zenni and Sebastian Merlos. Photo: Alex Pacheco

For the rest of the half, Las Monjitas held a commanding lead. Combining an excellent passing game with an uncanny ability to read plays, Sebastian Merlos racked up four goals. Eduardo Astrada and Sola each scored once, with both frequently assisting Merlos on the way to the goal mouth. Engel & Völkers fought valiantly as Las Monjitas's lead grew. A major defensive effort by his teammates allowed Matias Magrini to drive in a goal during the second chukker. The first half ended 9-5 in favor of Las Monjitas.  Las Monjitas continued its dominance in the fourth chukker. Astrada scored on an assist from Camilo Bautista, and Sola demonstrated his skill from the penalty line to make the score 11-5. Astrada made what was undoubtedly the play of the game, dribbling the ball on bounces before driving it in to goal. An aggressive defensive play by Jared Zenni helped Santi Torres thread the needle to put another point on the scoreboard for Engel & Völkers, making the score 14-6. Torres again wove through traffic for Kampsen to tap the ball through the uprights, ending the fifth chukker 15-7. 

Torres made an impressive trick play to start out the sixth chukker, hitting the ball under the belly of the defender's horse as he dodged around him and drove in a goal. Merlos ran the ball in to score, and Astrada added two more goals to his tally by the end of the chukker. Ultimately Las Monjitas sewed up the game 18-8.

Facundo Sola and Matias Magrini. Photo: Alex Pacheco
Facundo Sola and Matias Magrini. Photo: Alex Pacheco

Merlos credited his team's strategy and increased time playing together for its success.  "It was a very tough beginning. We knew they were going to be very alert and ready, so it was very important to win the ball at the throw-ins," said Merlos. "Our horses went great, and I think we took advantage of that. I'm very comfortable with the team. We are starting to know each other. Obviously we always need to fix little mistakes, but since our first match we are a much better team."

Audi Calls The Shots, Defeats Alegria Assist Card 16-13

Audi defeated Alegria Assist Card 16-13 in bracket play in the USPA Piaget Gold Cup at the International Polo Club Palm Beach.

Audi                                                 Alegria Assist Card
Marc Ganzi   1                                    Julian Mannix   4
Rodrigo Andrade   9                           Hilario Ulloa   9
Gonzalito Pieres   9                            Mariano Aguerre   9
Fred Mannix   6                                 Sterling Giannico   4

Marc Ganzi, Sterling Giannico, Gonzalito Pieres, Hilario Ulloa and Rodrigo Andrade. Photo: Liz Lamont Images
Marc Ganzi, Sterling Giannico, Gonzalito Pieres, Hilario Ulloa and Rodrigo Andrade. Photo: Liz Lamont Images

The match took off to a running start with Fred Mannix exploding into a gallop out of the throw-in to drive in a goal and make the score 2-0 (with Audi's one-goal handicap). Gonzalito Pieres demonstrated his penalty shooting prowess by sinking two shots in a row. Alegria Assist Card fired back with three goals, narrowing Audi's lead to one point. Pieres and Rodrigo Andrade added more goals to Audi's tally, ending the first chukker 6-3 for Audi.  Alegria Assist Card was "snake-bit," as announcer Toby Wayman called it, in the second chukker with several penalty shots going wide. Andrade drove a long pass downfield for Marc Ganzi, who finished the job and made the score 7-3. Fred Mannix flipped another goal in for Audi. The rest of the chukker proved thrilling as both teams fought to assert dominance in ride-off after ride-off at a wide-open pace.

Pieres continued his hot streak from the penalty line, racking up three more conversions in the third chukker. Alegria Assist Card gained two goals from the field, making the score 11-6 at the half. In the fourth chukker Pieres was the driving force for the Audi team, completing a penalty conversion and assisting Andrade on a goal to make the score 13-6. Hilario Ulloa converted two penalty shots in the fourth and fifth chukkers to make some headway against Audi's lead.

Julian Mannix and Rodrigo Andrade. Photo: Liz Lamont Images
Julian Mannix and Rodrigo Andrade. Photo: Liz Lamont Images

Andrade picked up a goal as the fifth chukker continued to showcase the athleticism of horses and players in high-octane ride-offs. Julian Mannix made a remarkable play, picking up Ganzi's backshot to score for Alegria Assist Card. Andrade shot an impressive cut shot to end the chukker 15-9.

Alegria Assist Card was awarded a penalty one to make the score 15-10 in the sixth chukker. Julian Mannix led the charge in the Alegria Assist Card comeback, converting to bring his team within three points of Audi. Ulloa dodged defenders to drive the ball in for a goal. Andrade made the final goal of the match off the goal post to end the chukker 16-13.

Ganzi said he felt his team's strategy going into the match paid off in its success. "We had a really outstanding first half, and we set the tone early. We were prepared to match their physicality, and I think they were surprised by that," said Ganzi. "We're not really known as a physical team, and today we were extremely physical. They're such a good team, and we have a lot of respect for them."  Pieres concurred with regard to strategy. "We knew it was really important for us to win this game, and we came with a good strategy," he said. "I think we won this game in the first five chukkers."

Play continues Sunday at IPC at 10 a.m., with Alegria Assist Card taking on Las Monjitas and Audi playing Engel & Völkers. Coca-Cola will battle it out with Lechuza Caracas at noon, and Orchard Hill will take on Valiente in what promises to be a spectacular feature match at 3 p.m.

International Polo Club Palm Beach Fast Facts:
Created by players for players, the International Polo Club Palm Beach was born out of the dream to build a facility to showcase the incredible skills of the ponies and players that dominate the sport.  Members and guests enjoy panoramic views of the action from field side box seats or lawn and terrace seating. Sponsors and fans convene at The Winners Circle to congratulate the players during the awards presentation following the games.  Gourmet brunches, après polo celebrations and the prerequisite charitable events will take place in The Pavilion. Designed to accommodate large parties, corporate clients, as well as family and friends.

Featured Highlights:
Herbie Pennell Cup - 20 Goal
Jan. 1 - 4, 2015
Joe Barry Memorial Cup - 20 Goal
Jan. 4 - 25, 2015  
Ylvisaker Cup - 20 Goal
Jan. 28 - February 22, 2015 
Iglehart Cup - 20 Goal
Feb. 28 - March 8, 2015
USPA C.V. Whitney Cup - 26 Goal
Feb. 15 - March 1, 2015 
Piaget USPA Gold Cup® - 26 Goal
March 4 - March 22, 2015 
111th U.S. Open Polo Championship® - 26 Goal
March 25 - April 19, 2015

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