WELLINGTON, FL-February 25, 2013-–Making its second consecutive championship final appearance, Audi lost a heartbreaking 9-8 overtime decision to Coca-Cola in the Ylvisaker Cup final Sunday at International Polo Club Palm Beach.
The victory avenged Coca-Cola’s loss to Audi in last year’s semifinals knocking them out of the tournament.
The fast-paced, emotionally-charged game was physical and defensive from the opening chukker.
|Audi’s Nico Pieres out of the saddle to retrieve the ball outracing defenders. Photo credit Alex Pacheco.|
Grand Champions Polo Club-based Audi grabbed an early 2-1 lead in the opening chukker when Mariano Gracida followed up his own long hit towards goal with a short shot to score with 2:39 left.
Audi didn’t regain the lead until the fifth chukker at the 2:16 mark on Nico Pieres’ penalty one goal for a 7-6 lead.
The teams battled back and forth the remainder of the game. Coca-Cola team captain Gillian Johnston tied the game at 7-7 with 58 seconds and seconds later Pieres defended well against a Julio Arellano goal attempt.
At the end of the fifth chukker, Sugar Erskine scored one of his two goals to put Coca-Cola ahead, 8-7.
Audi, known for its second half heroics, came roaring back when Erskine fouled Nic Roldan. Roldan converted the 40-yard penalty shot with 5:42 left in regulation to tie the game at 8-8.
Audi and Coca-Cola had several scoring opportunities throughout the game including the sixth chukker but neither could take advantage because of outstanding defensive plays.
No goals were scored from the field in the final regulation chukker.
Pieres stole the ball from Johnston and made a run downfield getting the ball to Ganzi, who just missed a cut shot with 1:14 left in the game. Audi had another late scoring run but came up short sending the game into overtime.
A controversial penalty called in the goal mouth after Audi tried to stop Coca-Cola on defense sent Arellano to the penalty line where he converted a 15-yard shot for the winning overtime goal.
“We knew it was going to be that kind of game,” said Erskine, who edged out Tommy Collingwood for Most Valuable Player honors and won Best Playing Pony with Leyla.
|Audi’s Nico Pieres goes after the ball before a run downfield. Photo credit Alex Pacheco|
Both teams were changing out polo ponies frequently because of fatigue from the fast-paced game and hot weather.
“It was an intense game, it could have gone either way,” said Coca-Cola’s Julio Arellano, the highest rated American player at 9 goals. “Audi played very well. It was two tough teams. There were no easy goals today. Both teams missed goals.”
Said Coca-Cola coach Boone Stribling: “They are a great team. Audi played very well, not to take anything away from them. Nic Roldan is a fantastic player. It came down to the horses at the end.”
It was Audi’s second consecutive appearance in the finals. Audi lost to Crab Orchard in the Joe Barry Memorial Cup.
Roldan, who was averaging nearly eight goals per game, was held to four goals and finished the tournament with 42 goals, the most scored by any player in the 14-team tournament.
Nico Pieres added three goals and Mariano Gracida scored one.
Audi team captain Marc Ganzi turned in a gutsy performance competing with both a well-taped fractured thumb, suffered in last week’s CV Whitney tournament opener, and knee injury.
|Audi team captain Marc Ganzi gets set to hit the ball despite a fractured thumb on his mallet hand. Photo credit Alex Pacheco|
In the George Haas Cup subsidiary final, Port Mayaca defeated Faraway, 9-8 in overtime. Carlucho Arellano was named MVP after scoring five goals including the game-winner. Marianito Obregon’s Portena, a 12-year-old Chestnut mare, was Best Playing Pony.
CV WHITNEY CUP SCHEDULE
Wednesday, February 27: Semifinals, 1 and 3 p.m.
Sunday, March 3: Les Armour Cup CV Whitney Subsidiary, 10 a.m.; CV Whitney Cup Final, 3 p.m.
LES ARMOUR CUP SUBSIDIARY SCHEDULE
Wednesday, February 27: Semifinal, Piaget vs. ERG vs. Valiente, TBA.
Thursday, February 28: Semifinal, Audi vs. Orchard Hill, 10 a.m.
Saturday, March 2: Les Armour Cup Final, 3 p.m.
AUDI/PIAGET TOURNAMENT LINEUP
Feb. 19-March 3, CV Whitney Cup/Les Armour Subsidiary Cup
March 5-March 24, USPA Piaget Gold Cup
March 26-April 21, 109th Maserati U.S. Open Polo Championship
GRAND CHAMPIONS POLO CLUB
WHERE: On the corner of South Shore Boulevard and Lake Worth Road, Wellington.
There are great field side views for tournament action at the home base of pro teams Audi and Piaget. Everyone is welcome to watch polo in a relaxed atmosphere during the spring and fall tournament season and other special events including the International Cup, Buzz Welker Memorial Junior Tournament, Women’s Championship Tournament and Gay Polo League International Tournament.