Alegria Wins US Open Polo Championship
Story by Alex Webbe Photography by Alex Pacheco
Six-and-a-half chukkers of all-out polo were punctuated by a penalty call that sent Alegria’s Hilario Ulloa to the 40-yard penalty line where he converted the shot for an 11- 10 overtime win over Valiente, Bob Jornayvaz, Santi Torres, Sapo Caset and Juan Martin Nero.
Alegria, Julian Mannix, Hilario Ulloa, Mariano Aguerre and Clemente Zavaleta scored first on a shot from the field for the 1-0 lead just 35 seconds into the opening chukker.
Santi Torres responded with consecutive goals from the field at 5:03 and 3:09. Juan Martin Nero made it 3-1 with the closing goal of the chukker.
Alegria got right back into the game in the second. A stellar defensive effort that shut out Valiente was supported by goals from Hilario Ulloa and Julian Mannix. After two chukkers it was all even at 3-3.
Valiente demonstrated their defensive prowess in the third as they blanked Alegria while adding a goal on a three foot penalty shot (Penalty 2, from the spot of the infraction) from Caset. After three chukkers of play, Valiente left the field at the end of the first half with a narrow 4-3 edge.
Ulloa and Caset swapped penalty shots to open the fourth period. Ulloa tied it up at 4-4 with a 30-yard penalty conversion. Caset answered back by scoring on a 40-yard penalty shot, 5-4, but the rest of the chukker belonged to Alegria. Ulloa scored on three consecutive 30-yard penalty shots as Alegria moved in front of Valiente by two goals, 7-5.
Caset cut the Alegria lead to a single goal, 7-6, with a 60-yard penalty conversion at 6:19 of the fifth. Three minutes later Alegria team captain Julian Mannix took back the two goals lead with his second goal on the day, 8-6. Caset cut the lead back to a single goal on a penalty shot with just 44 seconds on the clock. After five periods of play, Alegria was on top, 8-7.
Torres scored in the opening 30 seconds of the sixth for an 8-8 tie. With just under five minutes left in regulation play, Caset hit the ball downfield to himself, and carried it in for a 9-8 lead. Mannix raced down the field with the ball but left it on the doorstep where Aguerre converted to even the score at 9-9. An Alegria foul resulted in a penalty that allowed Caset convert from 60-yards out for a 10-9 Valiente lead.
Alegria continued to press the attack from the ensuing throw-in had moved the ball down into the Valiente end of the field. A melee in front of the goal allowed Zavaleta an opportunity and he drove the ball through the goalposts to end regulation play all even at 10-10.
After a brief intermission both teams returned to the field for the sudden-death overtime period. Both Alegria and Valiente had opportunities to score in the early going, with a Valiente foul putting Ulloa on the penalty line some 60-yards out from the goal for a penalty shot 24 seconds into the overtime period. The shot went wide, and Valiente tried to regroup and create some momentum.
Three minutes later Valiente fouled along the boards in their own end of the field and Alegria was awarded another penalty attempt, this one from 40-yards out. Ulloa made good on this attempt and Alegria celebrated the 11-10 Maserati US Open Championship.
Caset scored five of his game-high six goals on penalty shots. Torres added three goals and Nero scored once for Valiente. Ulloa scored five times (four on penalty shots). Mannix and Aguerre each scored twice with Zavaleta adding a goal for the win.
Zavaleta was awarded the MVP award while Ulloa’s Mia received Best Playing Pony honors.