WELLINGTON, Fl., April 15, 2016----Audi continued its' title quest in the 112th USPA U.S. Open with a hardfought 8-7 victory over Lucchese Thursday at International Polo Club Palm Beach.
Audi will meet Valiente in Sunday’s feature game at 3 p.m. In the opening game at noon, Lucchese plays White Birch at noon. The Audi-Valiente winner will meet undefeated Orchard Hill in Wednesday’s semifinals at 4 p.m.
While both Audi (2-1) and Lucchese (1-2) were assured a spot in the mini-quarterfinal round, the teams were playing for bracket position. Players were also able to keep a few top horses in the barn for Sunday's game.
In a battle between two of the eight-team tournament’s most defensive teams, Audi’s foursome of Marc Ganzi, Rodrigo Andrade, Gonzalito Pieres and Freddie Mannix had the edge against Lucchese (John Muse, Nico Pieres, Magoo Laprida, Sapo Caset).
“They are a great team,” Ganzi said. “That’s one of the better defensive teams in the tournament. They have three guys that can change a game. This team is a lot like Valiente, three guys that all can play polo really strong, super mounted and cover a lot of space.”
In an uncharacteristic game for both teams, Audi and Lucchese struggled at the penalty line. Audi managed to convert only 2-of-6 and Lucchese connected on 1-of-3.
Field shot conversions and throw-ins were nearly identical. Audi hit 6-of-14 shots from the field and Lucchese converted 6-of-15. Each team had 11 throw-ins.
The biggest difference was in penalties. Audi kept its’ penalty total to a tournament-low five, including only one in the second half, while Lucchese committed 14 fouls.
“We set a goal and we finished good,” Gonzalito Pieres said. “It was important to keep winning.
“We were marking and played all right but not scoring as much as we should. We missed a lot of balls in the middle. We missed penalty shots which was a lot compared to our other games.
The game pitted Gonzalito Pieres against younger brother Nico Pieres.
Lucchese took an early 2-1 lead after the opening chukker, but Audi controlled most of the remainder of the fast-paced open game.
Audi tied the game at 2-2 after the second chukker and led 4-2 at halftime.
Audi had a 5-2 lead for most of the fourth chukker until Lucchese cut it to one (5-4). In the fifth chukker, each team could manage to score only one goal with Audi taking a 6-5 lead.
In an exciting final chukker, Lucchese worked its way back behind back-to-back goals by Caset to take a 7-6 lead. Audi came roaring back when Pieres, who struggled with his penalty conversions, scored on a 40-yard penalty shot for a 7-7 tied with 2:53.
With 1:04 left, Pieres scooped up a loose ball and sent it to Andrade who saw Ganzi open for the pass. Ganzi scored the game-winner in the closing minute.
“Ro had control, John looked back at Ro and I just said hit it,” Ganzi said. “Ro has been doing a great job hitting me the ball the last few games and the goals have been going in.
“I had a little bit of bad luck in the first half. I took three or four shots in the first half and none of them went in. Ro trusted me to put that one in, I just breathed easy 30 yards out, one tap and it worked. It’s a good feeling to score the winning goal.”
Nico Pieres was assessed his second yellow flag of the game sending him to the penalty box with 58 seconds remaining.
Gonzalito Pieres led Audi scoring with four goals including two on penalty shots. Andrade had two goals and Mannix and Ganzi each added one. Caset scored four goals and Nico Pieres had three for Lucchese.
One of Gonzalito Pieres’ mares escaped serious harm in the third chukker when overcome by the sweltering heat due to the quick-thinking of team veterinarian Dr. Darren Templin and Grand Champions Polo Club staff.
“The horse is okay,” Pieres said. “Luckily, I had a lot of help with the guys, thanks to them the horse stayed up.”
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.
The Audi-Lucchese 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: Saturday, Women’s Championship Tournament (WCT) Season 11 Finals, consolation, 3 p.m., final, 4 p.m., juniors, 5 p.m.
12-Goal, April, Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame Challenge Cup
8-Goal, April, Aspen Valley Cup, Friday, GSA at Pony Express, 4 p.m.; Saturday, Casablanca vs. La Indiana, 10:30 a.m.
6-Goal, April, Las Acacias
4-Goal, April, Friday, Grand Champions vs. Polo School at Grand Champions, 5:30 p.m.
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.