WELLINGTON, Fl., April 11 2016----Audi, one of the sport's most dominant teams, returned to winning form Sunday with an 11-7 victory over Flexjet at the 112th USPA U.S. Open at International Polo Club Palm Beach.
Bouncing back from a disappointing 12-10 loss to Orchard Hill in last weekend's tournament opener, Audi's foursome of Marc Ganzi, Rodrigo Andrade, Gonzalito Pieres and Fred Mannix led for most of the must-win game.
Audi, the 2009 U.S. Open winner, is the only team in the eight-team field to return with the same lineup from 2015.
"We did have some great chukkers," Ganzi said. "When we are spreading the ball out we are lethal. At a minimum we are putting the ball on goal. How many times did we shoot a goal today?"
Audi converted 6-of-16 shots from the field.
"We said we had to get back to using all four players and we did," Ganzi said. "I think when we spread the field it creates more time. We really improved our chances today."
Pieres scored a game-high six goals, including five-of-five from the penalty line. He has scored 54 goals in three 26-goal tournaments. Ganzi had three goals and Andrade added two goals.
"It's not that easy to play the way we did, it was easier for me to take control of the game and maintain the rhythm," Pieres said. "It was important to win this game for sure. This could be one of our better games as a team. Both other finals we played quite good, too.
"We need to still find a way to play six chukkers," Pieres said. "We have a few good chukkers and then maybe one or two we don't."
Pieres was pleased with his 100 percent performance in penalty shots. "I have been practicing and it's working," Pieres said with a smile.
Tincho Merlos scored five goals for Flexjet winless at 0-2. His brother Sebastian Merlos and Nic Roldan each had one goal.
The game pitted Ganzi against his wife Melissa, Flexjet's patron and one of only two womencompeting in the 26-goal season. Both pro teams are based at Grand Champions Polo Club in Wellington.
"It's bad luck that we have to play against Flexjet," Ganzi said. "It's not what we wanted today."
Like he has throughout the 26-goal season winning more than 100 throw-ins, Mannix dominated the game's throw-ins.
"We are dominant when we know what we are doing and make team polo," Mannix said. "We're not consistent though so we have to figure out how to play consistent for the rest of the season.
"We made a plan to play the best horses in the fourth. Gonza was on his best mare, I was on my good gray. You have a little bit more power, a little bit more stop, a little bit more cornering and it makes a big difference. The horses helped us get to where we wanted to go.
"We have to win," Mannix said. "If we don't win anymore, we are done. We don't want to rely on penalties or someone else to win or lose. We are still in control of our own destiny."
After a close first half where the teams exchanged 3-0 advantages in the first and second chukkers and Audi had a slim 5-4 halftime lead, Audi came out on all cylinders in the second half.
In the fourth chukker, Audi outscored Flexjet, 4-0, to pull away for a 9-4 advantage. With Audi's aggressive defense and wide open offensive play, Flexjet was unable to mount a comeback.
"Gonzalito is a machine," Mannix said. "He is our captain, our leader. He is a champion. We listen to him, we follow him. There is no secret to it. If you have Gonzalito on your team, you better listen to what he says."
Audi converted 6-of-16 field shots while Flexjet could manage only 3-of-9. Audi doubled Flexjet's throw-ins, 16-8, and were perfect on the penalty line going 5-of-5.
On Thursday, Audi (1-1) will play Lucchese (1-1) at 10 a.m. and Flexjet (0-2) will face Orchard Hill (2-0) at 4 p.m.
Since 1996, the U.S. Open has been held in South Florida. IPC has hosted the event since 2004. In 2005, Julio Gracida added to the Gracida family's combined record of 36 U.S. Open Polo Championship wins.
Audi, recently rated No. 1 by Consumer Reports as the best auto brand overall, is a valued sponsor with a rich winning tradition in polo. The German automobile manufacturer designs, engineers, produces, markets and distributes luxury automobiles throughout the world including West Palm Beach. Audi, founded in 1909, oversees its worldwide operations from its headquarters in Ingolstadt, Bavaria, Germany.
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 Audi-Flexjet game was live streamed and can be seen on ChukkerTV, worldwide leaders in polo broadcasting.
Wellington-based ChukkerTV is exclusively live streaming International Polo Club Palm Beach and Grand Champions Polo Club games along with other games around the U.S. 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 club. 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 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 2016 WINTER SCHEDULE
SPECIAL EVENTS: April 13-16, Women's Championship Tournament (WCT) Season 11 Finals and Women's Polo Week.
12-Goal, April, Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame Challenge Cup
8-Goal, April, USPA Association Cup
6-Goal, April, Las Acacias
GRAND CHAMPIONS 2016 SPRING SCHEDULE
April 21-23: Grand Champions Cup
April 29-May 1: Spring Challenge
May 6-8: Sun Cup
May 13-15: USPA Eastern Challenge
May 20-22: Polo Gear Challenge Cup
May 26-29: The Memorial
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.
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 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.