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CESSNA AND COCA-COLA VICTORIOUS ON DAY TWO OF U.S. OPEN POLO CHAMPIONSHIP®

Apr 01, 2021 9:12 PM

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Aspen/Dutta Corp's Gringo Colombres and Cessna's Mariano Obregon Jr. battling for the ball. ©Alex Pacheco.
Aspen/Dutta Corp's Gringo Colombres and Cessna's Mariano Obregon Jr. battling for the ball. ©Alex Pacheco.

Story courtesy of International Polo Club Palm Beach

The USPA Gold Cup® concluded on Sunday, March 28, with Scone’s victory over Tonkawa, but the GAUNTLET OF POLO® carries on as the U.S. Open Polo Championship® kicked off in full force with two games on Monday, March 29. Showcasing the elite level of play that the tournament provides, Coca-Cola (Gillian Johnston, Mackenzie Weisz, Nico Pieres, Julian de Lusarreta) defeated Park Place (Andrey Borodin, Juan Britos, Hilario Ulloa, Matt Coppola*) 11-10 in overtime, while Cessna (Camp Campbell, Ezequiel Martinez Ferrario, Mariano Obregon Jr., Jared Zenni*) captured their first win of the season, defeating Aspen/Dutta Corp (Timmy Dutta*, Lucas Diaz Alberdi, Gringo Colombres, Stewart Armstrong) 14-6 at the International Polo Club Palm Beach (Wellington, Florida).

Few games have been decided by smaller margins than the second game of the U.S. Open Polo Championship® between Coca-Cola and Park Place. Shooting nearly identical percentages from the field and penalty line, the only difference proved to be the golden goal by Weisz one minute and 45 seconds into overtime. All eight players found the scoresheet, including four goals from Pieres in his return to play for Coca-Cola, as Coca-Cola emerged as the winner in the hard-fought match.

Park Place's Matt Coppola running around Coca-Cola's Nico Pieres to score in the first half. ©David Lominska
Park Place's Matt Coppola running around Coca-Cola's Nico Pieres to score in the first half. ©David Lominska

Trading penalty conversions to start the game, the remainder of the first chukker resulted in the two teams matching each other stride-for-stride, tied 2-all after field goals from Johnston and Coppola. Coca-Cola had their opportunities to take the lead, winning all five throw-ins in the first chukker, but could not utilize the extra possessions against a tough Park Place defense. Ulloa and Coppola played well off each other in the final two chukkers of the first half, combining for four goals, letting Britos lead them to goal with the pass to pull ahead by one, holding a narrow 6-5 lead at halftime.

Coca-Cola's Gillian Johnston lining up a neckshot against Park Place. ©David Lominska
Coca-Cola's Gillian Johnston lining up a neckshot against Park Place. ©David Lominska

Making their first run of the game, Coca-Cola came out of the tent playing a complete team game to produce a three-goal chukker, while more importantly keeping Park Place scoreless. Two field goals from Pieres along with one from Johnston highlighted Coca-Cola’s strong chukker, with de Lusarreta and Weisz both collecting assists. As was the case throughout the game, a swift response was seen from their opponent when Park Place scored three goals of their own, led by 10-goaler Ulloa. Scoring two goals, Ulloa also found Borodin for his first goal, bringing the game even once again.

Britos opened the scoring in the sixth chukker as Park Place had their sights set on the victory but inside the final minute, Johnston worked the ball downfield and scored her third goal to send the game into overtime. After a foul call against Park Place gave possession back to Coca-Cola, a long pass downfield from Pieres found Weisz and he was able to hit the ball just inside the post for the game-winning goal and the 11-10 victory.

The second game saw Cessna face Aspen/Dutta Corp for the second consecutive game and they were able to avenge their loss in the USPA Gold Cup® in a dominant 14-6 win. Seven goals from Obregon Jr. highlighted a proficient Cessna attack that led from start to finish, shooting above 50% from the field and converting all but one of their six penalty attempts. Colombres was the only scorer for Aspen/Dutta Corp, responsible for all six goals, but their defense could not slow a determined Cessna offense in the defeat.

The tone was set in the opening chukker by Cessna, building a 3-0 lead on goals from Ferrario, Zenni and Obregon Jr. by completing accurate runs to goal. Despite the slow start, Aspen/Dutta Corp stormed back in the second chukker behind the play of Colombres. After adding a goal from the field and penalty line, Colombres lined up a shot from distance with time running out in the chukker and finding the goal to pull his team within one, trailing 4-3. Foul trouble to end the half for Aspen/Dutta Corp pushed the possession back to Cessna and they capitalized with a three-goal chukker, two coming from the penalty line to restore control of the game, holding a four-goal advantage at halftime.

Aspen/Dutta Corp's Lucas Diaz Alberdi and Cessna's Ezequiel Martinez marking each other stride-for-stride. ©David Lominska
Aspen/Dutta Corp's Lucas Diaz Alberdi and Cessna's Ezequiel Martinez marking each other stride-for-stride. ©David Lominska

Continuing to dominate possession, Cessna quickly added to their lead in the opening minutes of the second half, receiving a field goal and penalty conversion from Obregon Jr. Completing a run of six unanswered goals, Ferrario extended Cessna’s lead to seven as Aspen/Dutta Corp struggled to generate offense from the field, producing just one field goal over the final four chukkers. Colombres continued to battle hard, bringing his goal total to six, but the well-rounded attack of Cessna proved to be too much in the game. Camp Campbell, Zenni and Obregon Jr. added one more goal each in the sixth chukker to complete the impressive 14-6 victory.

*Timmy Dutta is an Active Team USPA Members. Matt Coppola and Jared Zenni are Graduating Team USPA Members. Team USPA is a USPA program designed to enhance and grow the sport of polo in the United States by identifying young, talented American players and providing mentored training and playing opportunities leading to a pool of higher rated amateur and pro players and the resultant giveback to the sport of polo.

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