Iconica and Tonkawa Advance to CaptiveOne U.S. Open Polo Championship® Semi-Finals
The much anticipated quarter-finals in the CaptiveOne U.S. Open Polo Championship® began with an exciting 9-8 victory for Iconica over Cessna Polo Team, while Tonkawa claimed the 12-11 overtime victory over Aspen at the International Polo Club Palm Beach.
An evenly matched contest between Iconica and Cessna Polo Team resulted in the teams trading goals, remaining tied after each of the first three chukkers. With little separating the two teams, late foul trouble for Cessna Polo Team became a factor, despite conceding only penalty attempt in the second half due to the continual field advantage awarded to Iconica, allowing them to build a consistent attack. Ezequiel Martinez Ferrario was efficient on the attack for Cessna Polo Team, but an organized Iconica defence led by Matias Magrini kept the shots at a distance to hold their opponents to under 50% from the field in the victory. A fast-paced opening two chukkers saw the ball kept in open play, with the teams trading field goals to leave the score at 2-2. Receiving one penalty attempt in each of the first three chukkers, Iconica was unable to convert any of the three attempts, allowing Cessna Polo Team to stay even in the game. The end of the first half produced passing attacks from both teams as Sebastian Merlos and Ferrario scored two goals each for their respective teams, on the receiving end of nice passes from the back of the game, resulting in an even 5-5 score at halftime.
Cessna Polo Team’s Felipe Viana converted his first penalty attempt of the game to begin the second half and give his team their first lead at the completion of the fourth chukka, holding a narrow 7-6 advantage. In what proved to be the most decisive chukker of the game, Iconica dominated play in the fifth chukker, taking advantage of five Cessna Polo Team fouls to outscore their opponents 3-0. Despite zero of the five fouls resulting in penalty shots at goal, the field advantage gained with the Penalty 5’s resulted in the duo of Merlos and Magrini, combining for three goals and two assists. Making a late push to tie the score, Cessna Polo Team was unable to generate enough offense, after Magrini’s second goal of the game sealed the 9-8 victory, advancing Iconica into the semi-finals.
The second quarter-final featured a high-powered offensive match-up between Aspen and Tonkawa that required overtime in a back and forth affair. Tonkawa produced better ball control throughout the game, while Aspen utilized a strong passing attack to assist on 9 of their 10 field goals. A battle between 10-goalers, Sapo Caset held the upper edge over Polito Pieres, finishing with six goals in the overtime victory. Tonkawa raced out of the gate with Jeff Hildebrand working tirelessly off the ball to provide space for Caset and Agustin Merlos, who combined for six field goals over 10 shots in the first two chukkers. Trailing by three, Aspen was unable to reduce the deficit by the end of the half despite a second goal from Lucas James, losing the possession battle to trail 7-4 at halftime.
Aspen fought their way back into the game behind two goals and an assist from Polito Pieres, revitalizing their passing attack with James supporting in the back and Stewart Armstrong moving forward in the game. Trailing by two entering the final chukker, Aspen continued to receive contributions from each player, with Tomas Schwencke providing two crucial assists to help bring the deficit down to one. Armstrong’s third goal of the game completed the comeback to send the thrilling game into overtime. Aspen pressed forward to begin overtime, shooting at goal twice, but failing to find the goal, leaving Tonkawa with possession to drive downfield. A Merlos pass found Sterling Giannico for the game-winning goal, as Tonkawa claimed the exciting 12-11 victory to defeat the USPA Gold Cup® finalists and join Iconica in the semi-finals.