Orchard Hill always seems to do something astounding in the C.V. Whitney Cup Final.
Top two 10-goal arena players Tommy Biddle and Chris Hyde to face off for the Bryan Morrison Trophy today at 6:00pm ET on ChukkerTV
Orchard Hill Wins Second ConsecutiveC.V. Whitney Cup, Defeats Audi 11-9
Facundo Pieres on the ball. Photo: David Lominska/Polographics.com
Fred Mannix and Steve Van AndelPhoto: David Lominska/Polographics.com
WELLINGTON, Fla. - March 7, 2016 - Orchard Hill always seems to do something astounding in the C.V. Whitney Cup Final. Last year the game went down in the books as the 26-goal tournament's highest-scoring final ever (Orchard Hill defeated Alegria 16-13). This year its hallmark was not the numbers but the way Orchard Hill made magic in the last few minutes, turning what for five-and-a-half chukkers looked like a losing battle into a jaw-dropping victory. In back-to-back clutch plays, 6-goal player Julian de Lusarreta made two goals from the field for Orchard Hill, pulling his team into the lead for the first time, and then sealing the win. Audi was stunned, having consistently controlled the field until then.
No one felt the pressure more than de Lusarreta, named the game's Most Valuable Player. "I wasn't thinking anything other than to put it in!" he said of his final run to goal. From Orchard Hill patron Steve Van Andel's perspective, "The goal that put us ahead was great, and the second one with only a minute left was, 'Okay, just don't foul, and the game's over.'" That was exactly how it played out. Facundo Pieres had just tied the score at 9 on a penalty 2. De Lusarreta, who came into the final with an average of 2.5 goals per game, was the high-scorer in the final with 6 goals in the game at the International Polo Club Palm Beach (IPC).
"Julian had an amazing game, and he saved us with those last two goals," said Pieres, who conceded, "The first half was not good. They were beating us on every part of the field." In the second half, which opened with Audi leading 5-2, Pieres said Orchard Hill "changed our attitude a little bit and played much better. We started hitting the ball more, and that strategy worked." De Lusarreta agreed, saying, "The difference in the second half was that we concentrated and started to push every play. The whole team worked really hard."
Van Andel called it "the toughest game we played," adding, "They were on top of us, especially in the first half, and we couldn't get out from underneath them. They kept pushing, pushing, pushing. Finally in the second half we started hitting a little bit more and that helped us out, but still it was anybody's game the whole way so we were happy to come out on top."
Orchard Hill: Polito Pieres, Steve Van Andel, Facundo Pieres and Julian de LusarretaPhoto: David Lominska/Polographis.com
Audi played like the smooth machine it has been all season, with exceptionally tight teamwork and balanced scoring (Gonzalo Pieres made 4 goals, Rodrigo Andrade 3 and Fred Mannix 2). Mannix was exactly where he needed to be at any given moment, playing in sync with Andrade. Taking a perfectly calibrated back shot from Andrade in the second chukker, he blasted past Van Andel and scored. Mannix repeated the move in the third, zooming from the back to the No. 1 position and avoiding the hook from Van Andel. Mannix flew on a breakaway out of the next throw in and passed the ball to Andrade, who scored.
Best Playing Pony of the final was one of de Lusarreta's mounts, Norma, owned by Van Andel. The Stella Artois "She's a Thing of Beauty Mare of the Tournament" award, which is given to the best playing mare of C.V. Whitney tournament, went to Andrade's horse, Esterina.
Best Playing Pony "Norma" played by Julian de Lusarreta and owned by Steve Van AndelPhoto: David Lominska/Polographics.com
MVP Julian de Lusarreta. Photo: David Lominska/Polographics.com.
The final was live streamed byChukkerTV, a partner of the USPA Polo Network. Live continuous coverage of the 26-goal USPA Gold Cup® begins Thursday, March 10 with four games at IPC: Valiente versus FlexJet (10 a.m.); Dubai versus White Birch (12:30 p.m.); Audi versus Coca-Cola (3 p.m.), and Orchard Hill versus Lucchese (4 p.m.). All times are EST.
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