With the handicap changes recently announced by the Asociación Argentina de Polo (AAP), four players (Diego Cavanagh, Alejo Taranco, Alfredo Bigatti and Lerin Zubiaurre) were increased from 7-goal to 8-goal handicaps. A strong 2-2 record in the Argentine Open for La Dolfina Polo Ranch, despite having the second lowest team handicap at 30 goals, brought some focus to the team and which of their players were playing at a high level.
In a narrow one-goal loss to Ellerstina, Diego Cavanagh was the driving force behind La Dolfina Polo Ranch’s performance, finishing with eight goals and nearly upsetting the eventual Argentine Open finalists. While that put everyone in the tournament on notice that Cavanagh could take over a game, the Argentine Open displayed his ability to match performances with the best players in the world. Scoring 10 of his team’s 11 goals in their final victory against Cría Yatay catapulted Cavanagh into 2nd in tournament scoring with 7.8 goals per game, trailing newly minted 10-goaler Sapo Caset.
The key behind Cavanagh’s scoring in the Argentine Open was his accuracy from the penalty line. Taking the most penalty attempts with 27, Cavanagh still ranked third overall with an impressive 85.2% conversion rate, providing immense value to any team he is on. Recently moved to a 9-goal handicap in the USA, Cavanagh will try to build upon the success of this year’s Triple Crown to take the next step and enter the conversation among the top players in the world.
- 7.8 goals per game in Argentine Open (2nd behind Sapo Caset)
- 27 penalty attempts (1st place)
- 85.2% penalty conversion (3rd place)
The newest addition to Cría Yatay, Lerin Zubiaurre joins his three teammates with an 8-goal handicap. With a strong ability to attack goal, Zubiaurre had a breakout game in Cría Yatay’s victory over Chapaleufú, scoring five times on 11 shots. Leading the team with 18 shots total in the Argentine Open, Zubiaurre provided an offensive spark as a receiver downfield, but also using his 15 throw-in wins to create attacks for Cría Yatay. Just outside the top teams in Argentina, Cría Yatay will look for Zubiaurre to take his game to the next level, scoring at a high level in the #1 position in next year’s Triple Crown.
Playing in place of injured Eduardo Novillo Astrada during the Triple Crown, Alfredo Bigatti seamlessly fit into his role with the trio of Novillo Astradas, providing a scoring punch for La Agauda Las Monjitas. Leading his team with 22 shot attempts, Bigatti ranked 7th among all players in shot attempts displaying his ability to find scoring opportunities among the best players in the world. His transition from defense in the middle of the field to offense was crucial to La Aguada LM’s success, as he placed himself in a position to receive the ball from La Aguada LM’s passing attack.
Averaging 2.3 goals per game in the Argentine Open, Bigatti was an important part of La Aguada LM’s success in the Hurlingham and Argentine Opens as they finished with a 6-2 record. A slim one-goal loss to Ellerstina in the Hurlingham Open semifinals demonstrated that La Aguada LM is within reach of the top teams. The increased handicaps for Bigatti and Ignacio Novillo Astrada (a new 9-goaler) will create a strong La Aguada LM team for the 2018 Triple Crown.
A teammate of Cavanagh, Alejo Taranco impacted the game in a different way, not with scoring but with his defense and anticipation of the play. Often tasked with defending the top players on each team, Taranco provided effective on-ball defending, playing a physical style of play that provided difficulties for opposing players. His ability to create turnovers was a key to La Dolfina Polo Ranch’s success offensively, freeing up players like Cavanagh and Guillermo Terrera.
While Taranco’s role wasn’t necessarily a scoring role, the few times he did attack goal he was effective at converting his opportunities, making 75% of his shot attempts in the Argentine Open. Holding a new 8-goal handicap, one higher than his 7-goal rating in the USA, Taranco will look to continue his defensive work while adding a scoring component to his game in the 2018 season to build upon his new handicap.
The Board of Directors of the AAP used four factors to make their handicap decisions for 2018, which they consider a more integral system:
1. Recommendations of the Handicap Subcommittees
2. Final ranking in the Triple Crown
3. Results of voting by the players who participated in the Triple Crown
4. Recommendations of the affiliated clubs