WELLINGTON, Fl., February 1, 2017---Grand Champions-Casablanca survived a rollercoaster ride for a thrilling 12-10 victory over Goose Creek on Wednesday to remain alive in the Ylvisaker Cup at International Polo Club Palm Beach.
For the second game in a row, Grand Champions-Casablanca led at the half, but unlike its 15-8 tournament-opening loss to Valiente II, the foursome of Grant Ganzi, Nic Roldan, Inaki Laprida and Juancito Bollini rallied for a crucial victory.
Grand Champions-Casablanca led Goose Creek (Maureen Brennan, Peke Gonzalez, Tomas Garcia del Rio, Mariano Gonzalez) by as many as seven goals (8-1) with 5:06 left in the third chukker and had an 8-3 halftime advantage.
Playing as a team, Grand Champions-Casablanca played flawless polo controlling the momentum and forcing Goose Creek into unforced errors and missed scoring opportunities.
Frustration set in and Mariano Gonzalez was assessed two yellow cards and forced to sit down for two minutes. In that two-minute span, Roldan converted a penalty-two and scored from the field on a nicely-angled, out-of-the- saddle neck shot.
In the second half, however, Goose Creek regained its poise and started to control the momentum, rallying for five unanswered goals.
“We got a little comfortable and then we got flustered,” Roldan said.
Goose Creek scored four goals in the fourth chukker while shutting out Grand Champions-Casablanca and three more in the fifth chukker to tie the game at 8-8 and 9-9 before taking a 10-9 lead on Peke Gonzalez goal at end of the chukker.
“Fourth chukker is always our worse chukker,” Bollini said. “We are a momentum team. If the momentum is good, we are amazing. If the momentum is bad, it takes us two chukkers to get back in it.”
Grand Champions-Casablanca did just that, regaining its first-half form in the sixth chukker to retake the lead for good.
Ganzi, 18, and Bollini, 20, the two youngest members of the team, turned it on in the final chukker with their physicality. After Laprida won the throw-in, Bollini muscled his way through Goose Creek’s defense for a goal to tie the game 10-10 at the 6:48 mark.
Grand Champions-Casablanca took the lead with2:17 left when Ganzi took out Mariano Gonzalez to open the door for another Bollini goal and 11-10 lead.
“That was all thanks to Grant,” Bollini said. “He took the man and the rest is kind of easy. He did the hardest part. The sixth chukker I was on a hell of a horse that gave me a lot of confidence. I was able to go for the plays I wanted to and was able to capitalize which was good.
“This was a key game,” Bollini said. “Our last two games we were not playing well. The fact that we went through the same thing in the fourth chukker but came together as a team was a good feeling. We were all happy about that.”
After Roldan’s penalty-three attempt was blocked by Gonzalez with 1:34 left, Roldan hit a back shot goal attempt in a crowd at the 1:18, was fouled and awarded a penalty one automatic goal giving Grand Champions-Casablanca an insurance goal.
“It was a day of perseverance for us,” Roldan said. “We really dug deep. We got ourselves in the same trouble as last game but we didn’t let it get to us this time.
“We played hard, kept our focus and we pulled it out,” Roldan said. “We calmed ourselves down in the tent before the sixth chukker and said the only people that can lose this game is us. We dug deep and minimized mistakes. We had a great sixth chukker which was important for us. That’s all we needed.”
Roldan led scoring with six goals including three on penalty conversions. Bollini added four goals. Laprida and Ganzi each had one.
For Goose Creek, Mariano Gonzalez scored a game-high seven goals. His son Peke had three goals.
Grand Champions-Casablanca led in throw-ins, 17-11, converted 8-of-12 shots from the field and 4-of-6 from the penalty line. Goose Creek was 5-of-9 in field shots and 5-of-6 in penalty conversions.
“We needed to win this game,” Ganzi said. “We got too comfortable. We should have adjusted more at halftime and knew they were going to come out harder.
“When we play as a team, we are a different team 100 percent,” Ganzi said. “The team that gets to 8-1 is a championship team. The team that goes crazy and lets up nine goals is not a good team. We needed to minimize that other team that comes out in us.
“We all need to just be calmer on the field with each other and we are working on it.”
Grand Champions-Casablanca will play Valiente I on Sunday at noon at IPC. Both teams are 1-1. Valiente I features 10-goaler Adolfo Cambiaso, Felipe Viana, Victorino Ruiz Jorba and Bob Jornayvaz.
In Wednesday’s other games, Valiente II defeated Mt. Brilliant, 11-10, in overtime on Matias Torres Zavaleta’s game-winner at the 2:55 mark.
Orchard Hill knocked off Valiente 1, 14-8, on Valiente’s home field. Orchard Hill dominated the throw-ins, 17-9, and converted 9-of-18 shots from the field. Valiente I converted only 3-of-12.
Fourteen teams are competing in four brackets over three weeks. The top eight teams advance into theMarch 12 quarterfinals.
The prestigious tournament, established in 2003, is named after visionary business leader and lifelong polo enthusiast Bill Ylvisaker. The a former captain of the Yale polo team founded the Palm Beach Polo and Country Club and created the Polo Training Foundation to teach and develop young polo players.
Ylvisaker was a 7-goal rated player and won three U.S. Opens, two Coronation Cups against England and Australia, Gold Cup and four national 20-goal championships. He was chairman of the U.S. Polo Association (1970-75) and inducted into the Polo Hall of Fame in 1994. He died February 5, 2010 at age 85.
Grand Champions Polo Club caters to men, women and youth polo players at all levels. Its expert staff can customize a complete playing experience including horses, pros and certified umpires in addition to lessons and practice sessions as part of its’ Polo On Demand program, the only polo club in the U.S. to offer the unique program.
Casablanca, founded by polo players who understand the needs of today’s polo players, supplies a wide variety of polo products, equipment and apparel through superior quality, value and service around the world. Behind the Casablanca brand is a serious pledge to quality, excellence and elegance.
The Polo School at Grand Champions, a 501c3 organization, is 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.
2017 WINTER SCHEDULE
(Subject to change because of weather and scheduling conflicts).
Aspen Valley Cup (8 goal): Saturday, Handicap Final, Odosan vs. Patagones, 3 p.m.; Sunday, Final, Hawk Hill vs. GSA, 10 a.m.
The Limited Edition Series (12 goal): Thursday, Handicap Final, Beverly Equestrian vs. GSA, 3:30 p.m., at Grand Champions, Field 4.
FEBRUARY: 1-26, Halo Polo Trophy (6 goal) and Top Pony 8 Goal Series; 1-25, USPA Sieber Memorial Trophy; Women’s League, every Wednesday.
FEBRUARY 22-March 11: Sterling Cup (20 goal) and John T. Oxley Memorial Trophy (Subs. Handicap).
MARCH: 1-26, Madelon Bourdieu Memorial (6 goal) and The Limited Edition 8-Goal Series; 1-25, The Top Pony 12-Goal Series; Women’s League, every Wednesday.
MARCH 1-11: $50,000 National 12-Goal Tournament (Single elimination).
MARCH 15-April 1: National 20-Goal; Santa Rita Abierto (Subs. Handicap).
APRIL 1-15: $100,000 World Cup Tournament (0-26 Goals), winner-take-all single elimination.
APRIL 1-25: Las Acacias (4-8 Goals), Women’s League, every Wednesday.
APRIL 5-8: WCT Finals and Women’s Polo Week.
WHERE: 13444 Southfields Road, on the corner of South Shore Boulevard and Lake Worth Road, Wellington, 33414.
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, Flexjet and first-year team Grand Champions Polo Club. Everyone is welcome to watch every level of polo in a relaxed atmosphere that includes complimentary food and refreshments during the featured games of the winter, spring and fall tournament seasons and other special events. Admission is free except for some special events.