WELLINGTON, Fl., April 4, 2016----Flexjet, in control for most of the game, gave up three goals in the final chukker to drop a 13-11 decision to Lucchese in the opening game of the 112th U.S. Open Polo Championship Saturday at International Polo Club Palm Beach.
The Flexjet team of Melissa Ganzi, Tincho Merlos, Sebastian Merlos and Nic Roldan, playing together in only its fifth game and second tournament of the 2016 season, was unable to contain Lucchese's foursome of John Muse, Nico Pieres, Magoo Laprida and Sapo Caset in the sixth chukker.
Despite stifling hot weather conditions for players and horses, the game was fast-paced and physical from the opening chukker.
Flexjet set the tone early when Sebastian Merlos took a long pass from Roldan and scored the first goal just 15 seconds into the game. Merlos won the throw-in and came right back with another goal attempt that bounced off the goalpost. Flexjet won four of its first five throw-ins.
The teams played to a 3-3 opening chukker. Flexjet outscored Lucchese, 3-2, in the second chukker and took a 6-5. Flexjet extended its lead to 7-5 when Tincho Merlos scored off a pass from Roldan in the opening minute of the third chukker. But the teams ended up deadlocked at the half, 8-8.
In the first half, Lucchese converted 4-of-6 field shots while Flexjet converted 6-of-9. Flexjet was 2-of-2 in penalty conversions and Lucchese was 4-of-5. Flexjet led in fouls, 6-5 and Lucchese edged Flexjet in throw-ins, 9-8.
The fourth chukker was more defensive with Lucchese scoring only one goal on Caset's 60-yard penalty shot to take a 9-8 lead. Flexjet bounced back for a 2-1 advantage in the fifth chukker to tie the game at 10-10.
Lucchese jumped on Flexjet early in the sixth chukker when Pieres scored his second goal of the game for an 11-10 lead.
Caset and his lightning-fast horse got loose on two breakaways with passes from Pieres to score back-to-back goals for a 13-10 lead.
Sebastian Merlos scored with 1:30 remaining to cut the lead to two but Flexjet ran out of time to continue the rally.
"They are a very tough team," Caset said. "They played well but we took advantage of them in the last chukker. We needed to be patient. We played the last chukker like we wanted to play the whole game."
Muse was bothered by the heat and was administered oxygen during the game but was able to finish the game.
Caset scored a game-high 10 goals, six on penalty shots. Pieres added two goals and Laprida had one. Tincho Merlos led Flexjet with six goals, four on penalty shots. Roldan had three goals and Sebastian Merlos scored two goals.
Flexjet finished with 7-of-10 field shot conversions and Lucchese had 7-of-12. Flexjet converted 4-of-5 penalties and Lucchese 6-of-7. Lucchese led in fouls, 13-12, and throw-ins, 16-13.
In the other Saturday game, Dubai (Rashid Albwardy, Alejo Taranco, Facundo Sola, Adolfo Cambiaso) routed Coca-Cola (Gillian Johnston, Sugar Erskine, Miguel Novillo Astrada, Julio Arellano), 14-8. Cambiaso, the world's best player, scored a game-high seven goals including three on penalty conversions.
Flexjet (0-1) will try and bounce back against Audi (0-1) on Sunday in the noon game at International Polo Club Palm Beach. Both pro teams are based at Grand Champions Polo Club.
Flexjet, a valued sponsor, 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-Lucchese 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
SPECIAL EVENT: 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, The Limited Edition Final, April 5, Tuesday, 4:30 p.m., Smithfield vs. Longfield Farm, Field 2; April, USPA Association Cup
6-Goal, Madelon Bourdain Memorial, April 4, Monday, Final, Grand Champions at Valiente, 1 p.m.; 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, email@example.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.