WELLINGTON, FL – February 22, 2013 — Piaget fell behind early in the first half and never recovered losing its CV Whitney Cup opener to Alegria, 14-6, Friday at Isla Carroll East.
Grand Champions Polo Club-based Piaget was playing with a new lineup for the first time in the nine-team, single-elimination 26-goal season opening tournament.
Despite playing with two of the world’s top 10-goalers, Sapo Caset and Miguel Astrada, Piaget was unable to find its chemistry or put together consistent scoring opportunities.
“They were a difficult team to play,” Astrada said. “We played so much on defense we couldn’t go on offense.”
Piaget took an early 3-1 lead in the first chukker, but Alegria’s stingy defense and offensive teamwork frustrated Piaget for the remainder of the game.
Alegria 2-goaler Julian Mannix scored the tying goal (3-3) at the end of the first chukker and scored another quick goal to open the second chukker for 4-3 lead. Alegria never relinquished the lead after that.
“It was our first game together so we are going to build off of this,” Piaget coach Joey Casey said. “I think we’ll be fine. We just didn’t have our rhythm; we will get back into it.”
Alegria was led by a balanced scoring attack. Nine-goaler Hilario Ulloa led with five goals, followed by Mannix with four, Facundo Obregon with three and 9-goaler Mariano Aguerre added two.
“I didn’t anticipate that out of Alegria, but they’ve got some great players, four great players,” Casey said. “We knew they were a good team but we didn’t expect that.”
Caset led Piaget scoring with three goals while Astrada was held scoreless for the first time this season. Piaget player-padrone Melissa Ganzi scored the opening and closing goals for her team.
“We were always on the defense to try and cover the back,” Astrada said. “We had to play a lot differently. It was a difficult team to play in the beginning of the tournament, moreso for the first game.”
Alegria outscored Piaget, 3-1 in the second chukker and 2-1 in the third chukker for an 8-5 halftime lead.
“At the half we were doing okay,” Casey said. “We were doing really well on some of our throw-ins and some of our set plays. We were just outmanned on the field today, that’s all. We had a bad day. We’ll get better, it was our first game.”
Alegria extended its lead to 9-5 after four chukkers and 11-5 after five while Piaget kept trying to dig itself out of a hole.
“We tried to make adjustments at the half but it still didn’t work,” Astrada said. “They played a lot better than us. It looked like they had better teamwork.”
Aguerre, the 2012 Argentine Open MVP, said his team had only one day to practice together because of the heavy rainstorms. Still, Alegria was able to find the chemistry that eluded Piaget.
“We are a solid team with an extremely good defense,” Aguerre said. “We are strong everywhere on the field. We have a good defense and great offense. We are well-mounted. We have a little bit of everything.
“We made this team to win,” Aguerre said. “Today we played well and hopefully we can keep it up. Piaget looked like the team to beat on paper but I like our chances.”
Piaget will return to the practice field to prepare for the prestigious USPA Piaget Gold Cup that begins March 5.
In other Friday CV Whitney games, Lechuza Caracas outlasted Orchard Hill, 10-9, in overtime and Coca-Cola knocked off Audi, 11-7.
The CV Whitney Cup is the first jewel of America’s Triple Crown of polo.
Valiente I is defending champion of the CV Whitney Cup after defeating Valiente II, 10-8, in the final that featured father vs. son player-padrones with father Bob Jornayvaz prevailing for the win. Polito Pieres of Valiente I was named Most Valuable Player. Valiente returns with only one team this season featuring 10-goalers Pelon Stirling and Adolfo Cambiaso.
The CV Whitney Cup was created in 1979 and first played at the Retama Polo Center in San Antonio, Texas where it was the handicap counterpart to the U.S. Open Championship. It was moved to IPC in 2003 and has been held every year in Wellington.
Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney was an American businessman, film producer, writer, government official and owner of a leading stable of thoroughbred horses. He followed in his father’s footsteps as an avid polo player and won the U.S. Open three times.
The other two 26-goal tournaments are the USPA Piaget Gold Cup and 109th Maserati U.S. Open Polo Championship.
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.
YLVISAKER CUP AUDI SCHEDULE
Sunday, February 24: Haas Cup Final, Port Mayaca vs. Faraway, 10 a.m.; Ylvisaker Cup Final, Audi vs. Coca-Cola, 3 p.m.
AUDI/PIAGET TOURNAMENT LINEUP
Jan. 31 – Feb. 24, Ylvisaker Cup
Feb. 19 – March 3, CV Whitney 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.
INFORMATION: 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 during the spring and fall tournament season and other special events including the Buzz Welker Memorial Junior Tournament, Women’s Championship Tournament and Gay Polo League Tournament.
Sharon Robb for Phelps Media Group, Inc. International