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PARK PLACE HOLDS ON TO DEFEAT SCONE IN U.S. OPEN POLO CHAMPIONSHIP®

Apr 05, 2021 3:02 PM

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Scone's Peke Gonzalez hooking Park Place's Hilario Ulloa. ©Alex Pacheco
Scone's Peke Gonzalez hooking Park Place's Hilario Ulloa. ©Alex Pacheco

Story courtesy of International Polo Club Palm Beach

The final two teams, Tonkawa (Jeff Hildebrand, Lucas Escobar*, Sapo Caset, Francisco Elizalde) and Scone (David Paradice, Poroto Cambiaso, Peke Gonzalez*, Adolfo Cambiaso), made their debuts in the 2021 U.S. Open Polo Championship® on Thursday, April 1, at the International Polo Club Palm Beach (Wellington, Florida) as four teams jostled for positions in their brackets. In the opening game of the day, Tonkawa faced a second half push from Aspen/Dutta Corp (Timmy Dutta*, Lucas Diaz Alberdi, Gringo Colombres, Stewart Armstrong) but stood fast in the final two chukkers to claim the 11-9 victory. After splitting their first two meetings, Park Place (Andrey Borodin, Juan Britos, Hilario Ulloa, Matt Coppola*) got the best of USPA Gold Cup® champions Scone, holding on for an exciting 9-8 victory.

Setting their sights on reaching a second consecutive final in the GAUNTLET OF POLO®, Tonkawa began their tournament with a hard-fought victory on perfect four for four penalty shooting from Caset and a passing attack that overwhelmed Aspen/Dutta Corp in the first half. Assisting on all seven of their field goals in the game, Tonkawa effectively passed to goal, but Aspen/Dutta Corp produced a run of five goals that changed the momentum of the game, but ultimately left them just short of the comeback in the narrow two-goal defeat.

Tonkawa's Lucas Escobar flying in for a play on the nearside against Aspen/Dutta Corp's Lucas Diaz Alberdi. ©Alex Pacheco
Tonkawa's Lucas Escobar flying in for a play on the nearside against Aspen/Dutta Corp's Lucas Diaz Alberdi. ©Alex Pacheco

Controlling possession throughout the first half, Tonkawa had their opportunities to build a large lead but converted just three of their 14 shot attempts. However, the constant pressure from Tonkawa kept the ball in the attacking half and produced a 3-0 chukker in favor of the team in green, two goals coming off the mallet of Caset. After a Penalty 4 conversion from Caset extended the lead to four, Aspen/Dutta Corp ended their drought when Armstrong came forward in the game for his team’s first goal. While continuing to prevent Aspen/Dutta Corp from scoring, Tonkawa struggled to add to their lead after missed chances around goal, leaving the score at 5-2 entering halftime.

Aspen/Dutta Corp's Gringo Colombres lining up a neckshot against Tonkawa. ©David Lominska
Aspen/Dutta Corp's Gringo Colombres lining up a neckshot against Tonkawa. ©David Lominska

A renewed focus to start the second half resulted in three Tonkawa goals in a span of minutes that put them ahead 8-2 and left Aspen/Dutta Corp facing a big hill to climb. Despite their early struggles offensively, Aspen/Dutta Corp came alive for the rest of the fourth chukker, starting with a run from Dutta. A Penalty 1 goal awarded to Colombres, was quickly followed by another field goal as Aspen/Dutta Corp scored three goals in a span of one minute and 45 seconds to change the game. Another goal each from Colombres and Dutta brought Aspen/Dutta Corp within one, trailing 8-7 entering the fifth chukker. Returning to a possession-based attack, Elizalde pushed the lead back to four on consecutive goals, but Aspen/Dutta Corp provided one final push to try and send the game to overtime. In the last attempt, Colombres and Armstrong scored to threaten Tonkawa’s victory, but time ran out as the were ultimately defeated 11-9.

Park Place's Matt Coppola running into the play, closely followed by Scone's David Paradice. ©David Lominska
Park Place's Matt Coppola moving forward into the play, closely followed by Scone's David Paradice. ©David Lominska

A tale of two halves, Park Place and Scone battled until the final seconds despite Park Place scoring the first seven goals of the game. Building a 7-0 lead on the reigning USPA Gold Cup® champions, Park Place looked to have the win secured but were held to just two shots in the second half as Scone fought their way back into the game on four penalty conversions from Gonzalez. The potent Scone attack was held to just eight goals, four goals below their season average as their first half struggles ultimately were the difference in the 9-8 defeat.

Goals proved to be hard to come by in the first chukker as a Penalty 4 conversion from Ulloa provided the only offense in the opening seven minutes. The momentum swung in Park Place’s favor at the start of the second chukker after a run from Borodin was finished by an impressive shot to goal, extending Park Place’s lead to two. Scone was held scoreless through two chukkers, a rarity for the Cambiaso-led offense, allowing Park Place to build a significant seven-goal lead in a dominant third chukker by Ulloa. A goal from Poroto Cambiaso ended the half but left Scone facing a difficult task to come back from a 7-1 deficit.

Scone's Poroto Cambiaso led the comeback by Scone in the second half. ©David Lominska
Scone's Poroto Cambiaso led the comeback by Scone in the second half. ©David Lominska

Beginning to chip away at the lead, Scone prevented Park Place from attempting a shot at goal and found a rhythm offensively, receiving a Penalty 2 goal from Gonzalez and a second field goal from Poroto Cambiaso. Still holding a comfortable four-goal lead, Park Place continued to limit the Scone attack, but their opponents slowly closed the gap behind the young duo of Gonzalez and Poroto Cambiaso. Gonzalez’s third penalty conversion brought Scone within two, but an impressive response from Park Place saw a long pass from Britos picked up on the nearside by Coppola and finished for a goal to extend the lead back to three. Sent to the penalty line again, Gonzalez converted, leaving two minutes for Scone to tie the game. Running into Park Place territory, Scone was unable to score just feet from goal as a game-saving backshot from Ulloa secured the 9-8 victory.

*Peke Gonzalez, Lucas Escobar and Timmy Dutta are Active Team USPA Members. Matt Coppola is a Graduating Team USPA Member. 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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