Once again, Ellerstina and La Dolfina will go head to head in a Triple Crown final. In fact, the upcoming match will be the thirtieth final they will play against each other. History favours the Cañuelas foursome, who have won 19 of the battles, versus Ellerstina’s 10. The last final was won by La Dolfina when they claimed this season’s Tortugas Open; Ellerstina’s last victory was in Hurlingham, in 2016.
That last title was the only one missing from Nico Pieres’ CV in terms of the Triple Crown. “It is true that for me, personally, this tournament has always been particularly tough,” he shares. “I am happy, we have won Hurlingham two years in a row, but our goal is Palermo. Ellerstina will always work to win the Argentine Open. Tortugas is behind us, even though we really wanted to win, and we are determined to win Hurlingham, too, but our main objective is always Palermo.”
One of the biggest changes to Ellerstina’s organisation this season was the incorporation of Hector Guerrero as coach. Changes can also be seen on the field as well, with Facundo playing at Back and Nico returning to mid-field. But of course, each player is versatile and tackles every challenge placed in front of him. “While our positions and shirts say one thing, in this type of polo it can happen that I end up at Back, other times at 1 and Polito at Back, and so on,” tells the youngest Pieres on the team. “But I think we are working well together. The idea is that each player stays in his position until the play ends. I think that we are doing it quite well so we are happy with that.”
Has the team played all of its horses, or will there be a few making their season debut in Palermo?
It is all more or less organised. Facu is missing one that he brought over from the States; I brought one from England which I could only play in one match, and today [against La Aguada] I had to leave her behind because she is not 100%. My good mare, Guillermina, is still quite heavy. But in the other match against La Aguada we brought quite a few. And now we are all set for this final; ready to rumble.
Ellerstina has gone from strength to strength this season, especially if we consider the 2017 Tortugas Open final, arguably their worst match since they formed this line up in 2015. This year, they are as solid as ever, with a style of play that is slowly reaching their desired standards. “We are playing well,” continues Nico. “I am comfortable in my position, even though it is a new one for me. I naturally tend to play up front. I also liked playing at back, but now I am happy in midfield. Facu was the one who maybe didn’t feel so comfortable in the middle; he wanted to play at Back, and I think that he is the team’s secret weapon, so was long as he is comfortable, we can work around him.”
“I’m not really sure it changes much to look at the board and see that we are a 40 goal team,” considers Nico. “We have to try and always play those 40 goals; there are obviously some matches when we do that more than others, but I think that we have kept a good rhythm this year, with the exception of the Tortugas final, where we were pretty weak. I personally wasn’t confident in my ball skills, but it was against La Dolfina, an amazing team. So we don’t really focus on our handicap as much as we do on the performance of the team.”
Lastly, one of the most notable aspects about Ellerstina’s style of play during this Hurlingham Open has been the relentless style of attack, where they choose not to pull up even when they have gained a huge goal advantage. They maintained their intensity until the final whistle of every match. “We have been trying to play chukka by chukka, trying to win every chukka, and only looking at the scoreboard when the match finishes. The biggest changes we have made his year are the way we work together and the way we concentrate on playing chukka by chukka.”