WELLINGTON, Fl., March 14, 2016----Flexjet rallied in the second half but ran out of time in an 11-9 loss to Coca-Cola in the featured Sunday game of the USPA Gold Cup at International Polo Club Palm Beach.
Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, Tincho Merlos, Sebastian Merlos, Nic Roldan) opened the game with a goal from Tincho Merlos for a 1-0 lead.
Coca-Cola (Gillian Johnston, Sugar Erskine, Miguel Novillo Astrada, Julio Arellano) took advantage of a penalty-marred stretch and two yellow cards in the first chukker to score four consecutive goals.
Flexjet regained its composure and started to dig it outself of a hole in the second chukker, shutting out Coca-Cola, 1-0, but was able to score only one goal from the penalty line by Tincho Merlos.
Flexjet outscored Coca-Cola, 3-2, in the third chukker with two more goals from Tincho Merlos and trailed by only one, 6-5, after the 75-minute first half marathon.
Flexjet continued digging itself out of a hole in the fourth chukker. Merlos' penalty goal with 5:58 remaining, enabled Flexjet to tie Coca-Cola, 6-6. A goal by Novillo Astrada gave Coca-Cola back the lead 7-6 until the 2:35 mark when Tincho Merlos' goal tied the game at 7-7 and Flexjet outscored Coca-Cola for the third consecutive chukker, 2-1.
The fifth chukker was costly for Flexjet which had problems finding its rhythm and offense while Coca-Cola scored twice for a 9-7 advantage. Tincho Merlos kept his team in the game with another goal to trail 9-8 with 2:39 left. Erskine scored in the final seconds of the chukker to extend the lead to 10-8.
Novillo Astrada scored again at the 4:30 mark for an 11-8 advantage. Coca-Cola made another goal run but was stalled by the Merlos brothers. Flexjet had an opportunity to score on a penalty goal but could not convert. At the 2:09 mark with rain beginning to fall, Sebastian Merlos scored from the field to trail by only two (11-9) but ran out of time.
Coca-Cola controlled the throw-ins, 17-5. Flexjet had 12 penalties to Coca-Cola's 8. Flexjet converted 3-of-4 penalty shots while Coca-Cola could manage only 3-of-7. Flexjet converted 6-of-10 shots from the field while Coca-Cola hit 8-of-15.
Both teams evened their records to 1-1. Flexjet was coming off a victory over Valiente after playing together for the first time this season.
Sunday's game featured the only two women competing in high goal polo at IPC, Melissa Ganzi of Flexjet and Gillian Johnston of Coca-Cola.
Tincho Merlos scored a game-high seven goals. Sebastian Merlos and Roldan each had one goal. Julio Arellano led Coca-Cola with six goals.
Arellano was named the game's Most Valuable Player. His horse, Got Milk, was named Best Playing Pony.
Flexjet plays Audi on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. in the battle of the Grand Champions Polo Club-based teams.
"We have a tough game on Thursday," Audi's Freddie Mannix said. "We've played a lot of practice games against them. They are organized. They are going to be a tough team for sure."
In other Sunday games: defending tournament champion Audi defeated Valiente, 9-7; Dubai knocked off C.V. Whitney Cup champion Orchard Hill, 10-7; and Lucchese defeated White Birch, 10-9, in overtime. Two powerhouse teams, Orchard Hill and Valiente remain winless at 0-2.
Three other bracket play games are scheduled for Thursday: Orchard Hill vs. White Birch, 10 a.m.; Lucchese vs. Dubai, 3 p.m.; and Coca-Cola vs. Valiente, 5 p.m.
The USPA Gold Cup is the second 26-goal tournament of America's Triple Crown in polo.
Team sponsor 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.
The Flexjet-Coca-Cola game was live-streamed by ChukkerTV, leaders in polo broadcasting. Wellington-based ChukkerTV is exclusively live streaming International Polo Club Palm Beach and Grand Champions Polo Club games during the 2016 season with polo broadcasters Toby Wayman and Dale Schwetz calling the action.
Grand Champions Polo Club is the nation's busiest and most innovative polo clubs. The USPA-member club hosts polo tournaments ranging from six to 20-goal in addition to special events.
The club also features The Polo School, dedicated to teaching polo, 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 2016 WINTER SCHEDULE
16-Goal: Santa Rita Abierto, March 15, Tuesday, Casablanca vs. SD Farms, 4 p.m.; March 19, Postage Stamp Farm vs. Dutta Corp, 4 p.m.; March 22, Tuesday, Travieso vs. Dutta Corp, noon; Casablanca vs. High Ground/GSA, 4 p.m.; March 24, Thursday, SD Farms vs. High Ground/GSA, noon; Postage Stamp Farm vs. Travieso, 4 p.m.; March 29, Tuesday, Santa Rita Handicap Final, 11 a.m.; Semifinals, 2 and 4 p.m; April 2, Saturday, Final, 3 p.m.
12-Goal, $50,000 National 12-Goal Tournament, March 15, Tuesday, Final, Pony Express vs. Palm Beach Illustrated, 3:30 p.m.; Top Pony 12-Goal Series, March 18, Friday, Skaneateles vs. Flexjet, 10 a.m.; Palm Beach Polo vs. Heathcote, 4 p.m.; March 20, Sunday, Whitehall Ranch vs. Heathcote, 10 a.m.; Skaneateles vs. Pony Express, 10 a.m.; Palm Beach Polo vs. Beverly Polo, noon; March 23, Wednesday, Pony Express vs. Wildcat, 3:30 p.m.; March 26, Sunday, Pony Express vs. Flexjet, 11 a.m.; March 27, Sunday, Wildcat vs. Skaneateles, 10 a.m.; Beverly Polo vs. Heathcote, 10 a.m.; Whitehall Ranch vs. Palm Beach Polo, 1 p.m.; March 29, Tuesday, Wildcat vs. Flexjet, 3:30 p.m.; April, Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame Challenge Cup.
8-Goal, The Limited Edition 8-Goal Series: March 16, Wednesday, Odosan/Polologistics vs. Smithfield, 3:30 p.m.; March 22, Tuesday, Odosan/Polologistics vs. Longfield Farm, 3:30 p.m.; March 25, Friday, Skaneateles vs. Odosan/Polologistics, 3:30 p.m.; March 26, Saturday, Smithfield vs. Longfield Farm, 1 p.m.; USPA Regional President's Cup; April, USPA Association Cup.
6-Goal, March, Madelon Bourdain Memorial; April, Las Acacias.
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, email@example.com; hotline 561-373-0073.
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 a complimentary Argentine asado by Cilantro's during the featured games of the winter, spring and fall tournament seasons and other special events. Admission is free except for some special events.