GREENWICH, Ct., September 8, 2016---In a highly-anticipated rematch, defending champion Audi will play White Birch in the championship final of the USPA East Coast Open Sunday at 3 p.m. at Greenwich Polo Club.
The big-hitting Audi foursome of Marc Ganzi, Leo Mandelbaum, Nic Roldan and Sebastian Merlos led Goose Creek (Maureen Brennan, Marcos Garcia del Rio, Tomas Garcia del Rio, Mariano Gonzalez) from wire-to-wire for a hardfought 11-6 victory in the opening semifinal game on Wednesday.
White Birch (Peter Brant, Mariano Aguerre, Hilario Ulloa, Santini Magrini) held off upset-minded Airstream (Agustin Bottaro, Guille Aguero, Matias Magrini, Kris Kampsen) in the other semifinal game.
Last year’s team of Ganzi, Roldan, Juancito Bollini and MVP Miguel Novillo Astrada won the title with a thrilling 14-13 overtime upset of the favorite and host team White Birch. Audi had finished 3-1 in bracket play losing to White Birch, 13-9, while White Birch was undefeated (4-0) and looking to extend its' dominance in the historic tournament.
Unlike last year, it will be a battle of the unbeatens. Both teams finished 3-0 and No. 1 in their brackets and improved to 4-0 with the semifinal victories.
An overflow sellout crowd is expected for the eight-team tournament finale.
In front of a worldwide ChukkerTV audience, Audi turned in another total team effort on both ends of the field highlighted by a consistent aggressive big-hitting offensive attack on lightning-quick horses.
Playing open-style polo with confidence in the hotly-contested game, Merlos scored on the first long ball goal of the game from 80 yards out to give Audi a 5-3 lead with 6:05 left in the third chukker. After Merlos scored on an off-balance nearside shot for a 6-3 advantage, Roldan scored on another long ball from 40 yards out for a 7-3 halftime lead.
With 4:49 left in the fifth chukker, Merlos took a pass from Ganzi and lofted an incredible 120-yard goal for a 10-5 lead.
Audi’s defense, sparked by Mandelbaum, shut out Goose Creek in the third and sixth chukkers.
Merlos, a 9-goaler from Argentina, and Mandelbaum, a top amateur 2-goal player, will make their ECO final debut. The new look lineup and their horses trained in high altitude at the Aspen Valley Polo Club during the summer season.
“This is what we worked for,” Merlos said. “We had another good game today where it meant so much more than the others. We are one game away. We know what we are up against in White Birch. They are a very good team.”
Added Roldan, “We are right where we want to be. We stuck to the plan and played well as a team.”
Audi has scored 56 goals in four games with wins over Airstream, 11-10, Tupungato, 13-7, Postage Stamp Farm, 16-8, and Goose Creek.
Roldan and Merlos, playing off each other, each scored five goals to lead Audi. Ganzi added another big hit goal in the second chukker.
Roldan, America’s top player rated at 8 goals and best-mounted of his career, has scored 21 goals in four games and Merlos has scored 18 goals. Ganzi is the top scoring amateur player with 10 goals. Ulloa leads the tournament in scoring with 27 goals including five against Airstream.
Audi of America and its’ 29 Tri-State Audi dealers is presenting sponsor. Audi and its’ U.S. dealers offer a full line of German-engineered luxury cars. AUDI AG is among the most successful luxury automotive brands globally. Audi broke all-time company sales records for the sixth straight year in the U.S.
ChukkerTV has live streamed every preliminary and semifinal and will stream the final. U.S. Polo Assn. is sponsoring the ECO broadcast for the first time. U.S. Polo Assn. is the official global apparel brand of the USPA, the governing body for the sport in the U.S. since 1890.
The U.S. Polo Assn. brand carries an extensive collection of classically styled, high quality, casual clothing from polo shirts and tees to khakis and hoodies for men, women and children as well as watches, luggage, sunglasses, handbags and much more.
ChukkerTV, an independent media company based in Wellington, was the first to introduce state-of-the-art live streaming technology in January 2014 at Grand Champions Polo Club. One of the biggest highlights for polo players is the use of technology in live streaming, instant replays and team reviews.
NBC Sports Network will air a 60-minute taped broadcast on Sept. 17 at 3 p.m. with drone aerials and instant replays for team challenges also provided by ChukkerTV.
The East Coast Open began in 1905 in Rhode Island and was played until World War I. It was resurrected in 1978 by former USPA President Donald Little at the Myopia Polo Club in South Hamilton, Mass. White Birch padron Peter Brant started hosting the tournament in the early 2000’s at Greenwich Polo Club.
The USPA 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.
2016 EAST COAST OPEN RESULTS/SCHEDULE
SATURDAY, AUG. 27: Goose Creek 15, Beluga 11; White Birch 12, Faraway 6.
SUNDAY, AUG. 28: Audi 11, Airstream 10; Postage Stamp Farm 12, Tupungato 7.
TUESDAY, AUG. 30: White Birch 14, Goose Creek 9.
WEDNESDAY, AUG. 31: Audi 13, Tupungato 7; Airstream 13, Postage Stamp Farm 7.
THURSDAY, SEPT. 1: Faraway 14, Beluga 9.
SATURDAY, SEPT. 3: Audi 16, Postage Stamp Farm 8; Airstream 11, Tupungato 9.
SUNDAY, SEPT. 4: Goose Creek 6, Faraway 5; White Birch 15, Beluga 10.
TUESDAY, SEPT. 6: Tommy B. Glynn Semifinals, Game 1: Beluga 10, Postage Stamp Farm 9; Faraway Polo 9, Tupungato 5.
WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 7: Audi 11, Goose Creek 6; White Birch 10, Airstream 8.
SATURDAY, SEPT. 10: Tommy B. Glynn Final, Beluga vs. Faraway Polo, 1 p.m.; Governor’s Cup, 4 p.m.
SUNDAY, Sept. 11: ECO Finals, Audi vs. White Birch, 3 p.m.