It was a shot that put a smile on the face of the opposition.
However, it was also the goal that sent the game into overtime late Wednesday afternoon in the Aiken Polo Club’s 6-goal USPA Sportsmanship contest between Las Vinas and Wire Road Polo at the Powderhouse Fields. Las Vinas would come away with an 8-7 victory.
Las Vinas found themselves facing a deficit because of the handicap differential, but a successful 30-yard penalty conversion by Eddy Martinez in the opening chukker tied the game at 1-1. The early goal shifted the initial momentum Las Vinas’ way, with Martinez scoring from the ensuing bowl-in.
But, Wire Road Polo took advantage of the small windows they were afforded, and responded with an intense ferocity as Del Walton wasted no time in tying the score. The teams would trade goals, with Walton scoring his second goal of the period with 28 seconds remaining.
Several missed penalty conversion attempts in the first period, and unsuccessful deep drives by both teams in the first half, weren’t from miscommunication or assignment breakdowns, but from strong defense that saw marked players ridden off, and by taking away time and physical space from their opponents. Walton scored successive goals for Wire Road Polo, a penalty no. 2, and a goal from the field.
The two goal deficit only seemed to inspire Las Vinas as the team identified with quickness and speed, reduced the margin to one goal, with Eddy Martinez scoring on a 40-yard penalty shot.
Wire Road’s thin one goal margin didn’t seem to provide them with much of a cushion as Eddy Martinez tied the game early in the third chukker. Las Vinas’ persistence and patience created an opportunity late in the period. one that allowed Martinez to shake the Wire Road Polo defense, leaving the ball deep in his opponent’s territory, with Johnny Alvarez finishing the play, giving Las Vinas a one goal lead.
The late goal by Las Vinas served as a catalyst as Wire Road tied the game early in the fourth chukker. Dave Smith popped a ball through the uprights to tie the game. A resounding response from Johnny Alvarez gave Las Vinas a one goal advantage. But, it was the game’s next goal, by Wire Road’s Barry Limehouse, while he was being closely marked, that Limehouse somehow managed to get off a nearside shot, from an almost impossible angle, scoring through the center of the uprights. The goal sent the game to overtime.
“It was the best shot of the season,” said Martinez. “Is there anything better? That’s a smile.”
Martinez’s and Alvarez’s teamwork would be the difference in the final chukker. Alvarez went to hook Walton’s mallet, creating space for Martinez to pursue the ball, allowing him time to start the play, with Alvarez finishing by scoring the game winning goal.
“My penalty shots, especially on the penalty fours, were off today,” said Martinez. “Thank God for my teammates, Stacie (Rodriguez), Johnny and Cesar (Rangel). We work well together. The result is there, it wasn’t pretty, but it was a good one. I gave Johnny a really fast mare to finish the game. He needed to have some speed. We were very lucky. They’re a good team.”