If Thursday’s Tortugas Open semifinals left you thinking, “Haven’t I seen this movie before?” the answer is yes—and no. Sure, there was no surprise that La Dolfina and Ellerstina will be the billing for the final this Sunday. Numbers don’t lie. This will be the eighth consecutive time Ellerstina and La Dolfina have faced each other in the final.
La Dolfina and Ellerstina took their respective semis matches handily, but this year they came with some cool new twists in director’s cuts of the films. The biggest difference was the cast of characters. La Dolfina scrambled sort of a spinoff of itself, La Dolfina Polo Ranch, 18-9, and Ellerstina took Las Monjitas’ new formation 15-10.
Building on their success from last year when they secured automatic entry into the Triple Crown, La Dolfina PR played an exceptional opening game in Tortugas, defeating La Aguada 14-9. In that game the slick combo of Diego Cavanagh and Guillermo Terrera gave La Dolfina PR the weapon they needed. As for Las Monjitas, no one doubts their attacking prowess, but in the semis they conceded too many fouls to pull ahead. That sent Ellerstina to the penalty line too many times, from which they made the majority of their goals.
Here are the dynamics that got the two subsidiary teams from their opening matches to the semis.
Newly created from the disbanded Alegria team, Julian de Lusarreta replaces Fred Mannix on Las Monjitas, and so far the result has been fairly similar. De Lusarreta has been tasked with a more defensive role where he stays back and has hit strong backhands defensively. This was a role at which Mannix is exceptional, so keeping de Lusarreta in that role should provide similar outcome to Alegria last year. This set-up allows Caset, Ulloa and Sola to all go forward, especially Caset and Sola, who lead Las Monjitas on the offensive end.
After a dominating 18-4 opening win, Las Monjitas is still striving to get on the level of Ellerstina and La Dolfina, with their15-10 loss to Ellerstina showing they have some ground to cover. While de Lusarreta provides more of an offensive punch than Mannix, they still struggle to limit the goals of the top teams, conceding 15 goals to Ellerstina.
Las Monjitas has really controlled open play so far, and even matched Ellerstina from the field, but they have had issues with fouling as they committed 16 fouls compared to just 8 for Ellerstina.
The best teams (La Dolfina/Ellerstina) have a 4-man balanced attack and defense that creates match-up issues throughout the game. Las Monjitas is just a step behind when it comes to Ulloa and de Lusarreta coming forward and creating more problems in the game as their offense has more heavily relied on the performances of Sapo Caset and Facundo Sola, who also played for Alegria last year.
Las Monjitas is still considered the third best team by a fair margin, but they need to find another gear to reach the finals of the Hurlingham or Argentine Open.
LA DOLFINA POLO RANCH
The overall set-up of La Dolfina PR has Ignatius du Plessis playing a prototypical #4 position, staying back and being strong defensively, while Terrera really drives the team forward. Cavanagh is tasked with being an offensive and defensive player, which places a lot of pressure on him.
La Dolfina PR seems to really stick to their positions and roles on the team better than most teams. That makes them more consistent than teams with four players who all transition from front to back during the game.
At the same time, when facing stronger teams, La Dolfina PR sometimes get stretched and can't slow down their opponent's offense. That proved true in their semifinal against La Dolfina, which had four 10-goalers all attacking at different times. Against teams like La Aguada, LD Polo Ranch can better match-up and maintain their positioning.
Photography: Helen Cruden