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JOE BARRY SEMIFINALS: 4 PLAYERS TO WATCH

Darlene Ricker | 01/23/18

The 2018 Joe Barry Cup semifinals take place tomorrow (Wednesday, January 24) at International Polo Club Palm Beach. Below is the backstory on one player from each team whose performance will be fun to watch. All times are U.S. Eastern.

COCA-COLA v. MODERE (noon)


SUGAR ERSKINE - Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola’s only two losses in bracket play in the Joe Barry Cup were to two other semifinalists (La Indiana and Tonkawa). Now comes their semifinal match-up against undefeated Modere. Coca-Cola has allowed just 12 goals total over the last two games while looking to Sugar Erskine for offensive output.

If their two most recent games are any indication, Coca-Cola has found their stride, in many ways thanks to the performance of Erskine. After scoring just three goals total in his first two games, Erskine has exploded for eight field goals in just nine shot attempts over his last two games. His 11 field goals in the Joe Barry Cup ties him for second among all players, trailing just tournament scoring leader Sebastian Merlos.

Leading Coca-Cola in scoring the last two games, Erskine has been critical to the Big Red’s success by effectively attacking on offense while taking on the responsibility of taking Coke’s set plays. The strategy change of having Erskine more involved in the back of the game has freed up Julio Arellano and Steve Krueger to fully utilize Coca-Cola’s passing attack, finding Erskine on runs to goal.

KEY STATS: SUGAR ERSKINE

- 11 field goals (tied 2nd with Facundo Pieres and Kris Kampsen) 

- 11/15 shooting (73.3%) 

HILARIO ULLOA - Modere

In swashbuckling fashion, Hilario Ulloa made a neck shot from 65 yards with time expiring to defeat Goose Creek and send Modere into the semis with a perfect 3-0 record. In his second year as a 10-goaler in the U.S., Ulloa continues to impress, averaging 4.7 goals per game (7th among all players). With the exception of three safety attempts, Ulloa is a perfect 5-for-5 on penalty shots from the 30-, 40- and 60-yard lines.

Continually among the best penalty shooters in the world, any opponent will look to keep Ulloa off the penalty line, as he can singlehandedly win games. Ulloa’s individual accolades are noteworthy, but his maturation as a captain may best be seen by his team’s performance with teammates Agustin Obregon and Jared Zenni scoring nine and eight goals respectively. Ulloa’s ability to manage the game and create a balanced offense has made Modere a team to beat in any 20-goal tournament.

KEY STATS: HILARIO ULLOA

- 4.7 goals per game (7th) 

- 5/5 on penalty 2, 3 and 4s

- 16 throw-in wins (7

LA INDIANA v. TONKAWA (3 p.m.)

TORO RUIZ - La Indiana

In a rematch of last year’s semifinal, La Indiana looks to continue their bid for back-to-back Joe Barry Cup titles against Tonkawa, with both teams holding identical 3-0 records. La Indiana produces a different line-up this year, headlined by up-and-coming player Victorino “Toro” Ruiz Jorba. In the #2 position Ruiz has provided an energy that fuels the fast-paced attack of La Indiana. Second-highest scorer on the team with 10 goals, Ruiz was the catalyst in La Indiana’s overtime victory over Travieso that secured their spot in Wednesday’s semifinal. He was MVP in a Sunday feature game against Grand Champions.

Ruiz is crucial to La Indiana’s success, as his ability to pressure the ball allows Jeff Hall and Facundo Obregon to protect the back half of the field. Tasked with taking all penalty 2s, Ruiz has been a perfect 4-for-4, while shooting an efficient 60% from the field. In the match-up against Tonkawa, look for Ruiz to disrupt the play of higher-rated players Julian de Lusarreta and Sapo Caset and be a popular target downfield to ignite the La Indiana offense.

KEY STATS: TORO RUIZ 

- Penalty shots 4/4 (penalty 2s) 

- 6/10 shooting (60%) 

SAPO CASET - Tonkawa

Coming off a wildly successful Argentine high goal-season where he was the leading scorer, Sapo Caset has continued his exceptional play, leading Tonkawa to a 3-0 record. Tied for second in scoring with 18 goals, Caset has benefited from having Julian de Lusarreta protecting the back of the field, providing the freedom to attack downfield.

While Caset has been a perfect 8-for-8 on penalty shots from the 30- and 40-yard lines, he has struggled a bit this season from the 60-yard line shooting just 1-for-7. With an opponent’s defensive focus often on Caset, he continues to score at a high rate, while providing offensive opportunities for teammates Sterling Giannico and Jeff Hildebrand. The highest-rated player on the field in this semifinal game, he will look to continue his 6.0 goals per game output and produce a different outcome than last year’s semifinal against La Indiana.

KEY STATS: SAPO CASET 

- 18 goals (tied 2nd with Facundo Pieres, Nico Pieres, Sapo Caset and Mariano Gonzalez)

- 17 throw-in wins (tied 4th with Kris Kampsen and Nico Pieres) 

* The semifinals will be live streamed on the USPA Polo Network: uspolo.org/video. Field assignments will be available Wednesday morning on the IPC high-goal hotline: +1 561 282 5290.

* All stats in this article are to date in 2018 Joe Barry Cup.

Photos by David Lominska and Liz Lamont Images