Coca-Cola and La Indiana Advance to Carlos Gracida Cup Final
The semi-finals of the 2018 Carlos Gracida Cup at the International Polo Club Palm Beach saw two close games with Coca-Cola defeating Prestige Worldwide 9-7 and La Indiana defeating Pilot 10-9.
The first semi-final was a tale of two halves as both teams attacked relentlessly in the opening three chukkas only to have the offense disappear over the final three chukkas with only one combined field goal in the second half. Content to shoot from distance, in part due to the defensive efforts of Miguel Novillo Astrada, Coca-Cola shot an inaccurate 3 for 16 (19%) in the game but were able to produce a strong defensive effort of their own and take advantage of Prestige Worldwide’s foul trouble in the second half to finish with the two-goal victory.
The two teams traded goals in the opening half with the duo of Steve Krueger and Sugar Erskine supplying the offense for Coca-Cola, while Stevie Orthwein had his best game to date, scoring four of his five goals in the opening half. Keeping Coca-Cola from running towards goal, Prestige Worldwide forced difficult shots and used the change of possession to create chances of their own. Coca-Cola was able to match Prestige Worldwide on the scoresheet with perfect 3 for 3 shooting from the penalty line as the score was tied 6-6 at halftime.
Despite committing just four fouls in the second half, Prestige Worldwide found all four to be costly as they all resulted in penalty shots at goal with Coca-Cola able to convert three of them to take the lead. Building on his strong first half performance, Orthwein added another goal in the fifth chukka, while Miguel Novillo Astrada continued to anchor the defensive performance from a Prestige Worldwide team that held Coca-Cola to zero field goals in the second half. Ultimately it was the extra penalty attempts for Coca-Cola that proved to be the difference as they advanced to Saturday’s final with the 9-7 victory.
The second semi-final featured a match that came down to the final seconds as La Indiana narrowly defeated Pilot 10-9, advancing to Saturday’s final against Coca-Cola. Focusing their defensive efforts on containing Gonzalito Pieres, La Indiana forced Pieres into difficult scoring chances throughout the game as he shot at goal twelve times but was only able to convert five due in large part to the defensive pressure from Facundo Obregon and Jeff Hall. The inability of La Indiana to create offense from the field in the second half allowed Pilot to take control of the game, but it was foul trouble in the final chukka for Pilot that resulted in two penalty goals for La Indiana that allowed them to hold on for the one-goal victory.
After an open flowing first chukka that saw both teams fail to score, La Indiana build a lead behind the exceptional first half offensive performances from Michael Bickford and Toro Ruiz, who scored three goals each. Pilot was able to generate more scoring chances in the opening three chukkas but their inaccuracy from the field and the penalty line prevented them from taking advantage of La Indiana’s seven fouls. Finishing the first half shooting 4 for 11 from the field and 0 for 3 from the penalty line, Pilot found themselves trailing 6-4 as La Indiana took advantage of each opportunity presented around goal.
The second half was a reversal of fortunes as La Indiana was only able to find the goal from the field just once in the fourth and fifth chukkas, as Pilot used a dominant fifth chukka, led by two goals from Pieres and one from Matt Coppola to take a 9-8 lead into the final chukka. With both teams failing to score from the field in the final chukka, the result came down to foul trouble as four Pilot fouls led to three penalty attempts for La Indiana, as they were able to convert two, regaining the lead at 10-9. With time expiring, Pilot raced towards the La Indiana goal but the ball was backhanded out of the goal mouth with time expiring as La Indiana held to reach their second consecutive 20-goal final.