WELLINGTON, Fl.-November 23, 2016---Flexjet finished the 20-goal season undefeated with a thrilling come-from-behind 11-8 victory over Casablanca to capture the USPA National 20-Goal title Wednesday at windswept Grand Champions Polo Club.
The talented foursome of Melissa Ganzi, Jason Crowder, Nic Roldan and Jared Sheldon rallied in the final two chukkers, outscoring Casablanca’s equally-talented foursome of Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Julio Arellano and JJ Celis, 6-1.
Sheldon, one of the original members of Team USPA, was named Most Valuable Player. The scrappy athlete played well above his four-goal rating and played a big role in the team’s defensive second half and also scored four goals.
“It worked out well,” Sheldon said. “What a team. It’s such a fun team playing with Jason, Nic and Melissa. It’s so easy to play with them. We don’t say much, we know what the other is going to do. We played classic, open polo and enjoyed ourselves.”
Rebecca, a 10-year-old Chestnut mare ridden by Melissa Ganzi and owned by Santa Rita Polo Farm, was selected Best Playing Pony.
Casablanca frustrated penalty-plagued Flexjet in the first half for a 6-5 halftime lead and 7-5 advantage after the fourth chukker.
It was Melissa Ganzi who sparked Flexjet’s second-half rally.
“The goal Melissa scored broke the seal for us and from then on we took over,” Sheldon said. “Like Melissa says, it only matters in the second half.”
At the 5:34 mark, Ganzi, riding Rebecca, broke away from her defenders to score and cut Casablanca’s lead to one, 7-6.
After Roldan just missed an incredible angled neck shot, he then connected with Sheldon who scored, tying the game at 7-7 with 3:15 left in the chukker.
Casablanca briefly regained the lead in the closing seconds of the fifth chukker when Arellano converted a penalty-three for an 8-7 lead.
The sixth chukker was all Flexjet regaining its momentum and outscoring Casablanca, 4-0.
“Everything just fell into place,” Roldan said. “They played better than us in the first half but we kept fighting and fighting. We knew if we finished and scored some of the goals that we had been missing we would be there at the end and win.”
Roldan scored first at 5:33 lofting a penalty-three through the goal posts to tie the game at 8-8. A minute later, Sheldon got loose for a goal to regain the lead, 9-8. Roldan followed at 2:58 for an insurance goal and Sheldon picked up a loose ball to score one final time for a three-goal victory.
“Things just opened up and they finally started going in,” Sheldon said. “Once the pressure kind of mounted everyone got going. Nic did a great job getting the ball up in front.”
Roldan scored a game-high six goals, including three on penalty shots.
“For Flexjet this is great, they have been a great sponsor and huge supporter of polo,” Roldan said.
“Playing with this team was fun all season,” Roldan said. “We had a great chemistry, kept it simple and moved the ball as much as possible. It was a team effort in both tournaments all the way. It was a great season.”
Arellano led Casablanca with three goals, Ganzi had two and Celis added one. The team also picked up two goals on handicap.
Flexjet also won the USPA North American Cup last week with an 11-9 victory over Audi (Marc Ganzi, Jesse Bray, Carlucho Arellano, Jeff Blake) with Grant Ganzi filling in for his mother.
In last year’s USPA National 20-Goal final, Audi (Marc Ganzi, Jeff Blake, MVP Sugar Erskine and Carlucho Arellano) won with an 11-8 win over Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, Jason Crowder, Nic Roldan, Juan Bollini).
In front of a worldwide ChukkerTV audience and good local crowd including USPA Chairman Joe Meyer, the regular season fall finale kicked off the biggest week of fall polo at Grand Champions.
A holiday weekend tradition marking the end of the fall season is Saturday’s doubleheader, one of the biggest fall social events in Wellington.
In the opening game at 1 p.m., the Carlos Gracida Legends of Polo game will honor the legacy of Gracida, who died tragically in February, 2014 at age 53. Grand Champions (Tim Dutta, Carlitos Gracida, Mariano Gracida, Cali Garcia Valez) will play Aspen Valley (Peter Rizzo, Weston Gracida, Martin Estrada, Tommy Biddle).
In the second game at 3 p.m., the fifth annual International Cup will pit Team USA (Marc Ganzi, Grant Ganzi, Julio Arellano, Nic Roldan) against Uruguay (Mauricio Sanchez, Alexis de Boismenu, Guillermo Besozzi, Juan Curbelo). Team USA is undefeated in International Cup play with wins over England, Chile, Mexico and South Africa.
“Anytime you play for your country it has a sentimental value,” Roldan said. “We have a great team. Uruguay has a pretty strong team and I think it’s going to be super competitive. Hopefully, we will put up a good show.”
The United States Polo Association® was organized and exists for the purpose of promoting the game of polo, coordinating the activities of its member clubs and registered players, arranging and supervising polo tournaments, competitions, and games and providing rules, handicaps, and conditions for those tournaments, competitions, and games including the safety and welfare of participants and mounts.
Flexjet has been a member of the Directional Aviation family of companies since 2013. They are committed to creating premium travel experiences and providing access to the most modern, technologically-advanced aircraft in the industry on a daily basis, going above and beyond world-class private travel experiences.
Wellington-based ChukkerTV, leaders in polo broadcasting, is live streaming the entire fall season. ChukkerTV’s state-of-the art technology also features team challenges and instant replay which made their debut at Grand Champions in January, 2014.
Grand Champions, with eleven well-manicured fields, enjoyed its finest fall season in the ten-year history of the club. Grand Champions is the only club in the nation to stage USPA-sanctioned 20-goal tournaments in the fall. The club also hosted eight successful medium goal tournaments.
Grand Champions caters to men, women and youth polo players at all levels. Its expert staff can customize a complete playing experience including horses, pros and certified umpires in addition to lessons and practice sessions as part of its’ Polo On Demand program, the only polo club in the U.S. to offer the uniqueprogram.
The Polo School, a 501c3 organization, is dedicated to teaching polo to all ages, particularly grass roots youth. Its mission is to provide individuals opportunities in polo. The Polo School operates in Wellington January through June and September through November.
GRAND CHAMPIONS POLO CLUB
WHERE: 13444 Southfields Road, on the corner of South Shore Boulevard and Lake Worth Road, Wellington, 33414.
DIRECTOR OF POLO: Juan Olivera, 561-644-5050, juan.olivera @gcpolo.com; hotline 561-373-0073.
2016 FALL SCHEDULE
Saturday, Gates Open 12:30 p.m., Carlos Gracida Memorial Legends of Polo, 1 p.m.; Fifth annual International Cup, Team USA vs. Uruguay, 3 p.m.
INFORMATION: For spectators, there are great field side views for tournament action and also the Grand Champions Polo Club Boutique. The club is home base for pro teams Audi and Flexjet. Everyone is welcome to watch every level of polo in a relaxed atmosphere that includes complimentary food and refreshments during the featured games of the winter, spring and fall tournament seasons and other special events. Admission is free except for some special events.