WELLINGTON, Fl., March 14, 2017---For the second time in four days, Grant Ganzi scored the winning goal to lead Casablanca to a 12-11overtime victory over Valiente in the Sterling Cup semifinal on Monday at windswept Valiente Farm.
Casablanca (Harrison Azzaro, Grant Ganzi, Gonzalito Pieres, Rodrigo Andrade) will meet Travieso (Tony Calle, Torito Ruiz, Sebastian Merlos, Hugo Barabucci) in the championship finalon Thursday at 4 p.m.
Travieso advanced into its first 20-goal final with an 11-6 victory over Dutta Corp in the other semifinal.
"We talked about playing in the final and now we are," Ganzi said. "I am happy for Tony, he is one of my best friends. Travieso has been playing unbelievable and Tony has been playing lights out."
At the 7:02 mark in overtime after Pieres and Andrade scoring attempts, Ganzi turned to the right and backed the ball in with a smooth, quick stroke of the mallet.
It was the second wild finish in a semifinal game the Lynn University freshman scored the winning goal.
In the $50,000 National 12-Goal Tournament on Friday at Grand Champions, Ganzi picked up a wide defensive neck shot and hit an open back shot just inside the right goal post to clinch the win for a 9-8 victory over Westhaven, sending Casablanca into Tuesday’s 4 p.m. final against GSA.
Valiente (Rob Jornayvaz, Roberto Zedda, Pablo Spinacci, Diego Cavanagh) and Casablanca were well-matched in the physical, hotly contested game.
With 3:29 left in regulation, Cavanagh took off from midfield to score for an 11-10 Valiente lead. Andrade then took the ball and tied the game at 11-11. After two sticky minutes, Casablanca fouled with 35 seconds sending Cavanagh to the 40-yard penalty line. The open goal penalty shot sailed wide right giving Casablanca new life and setting up Ganzi’s heroics.
“I called it in the tent,” said the 18-year-old Ganzi, one of the youngest players in the 20-goal tournament. “I told all the guys I was going to score a back shot to win his game.
“Once I saw that ball I didn’t even think about turning it. I had one shot at the ball and I saw the way the line was going. I cranked that back shot in the goal. I think mentally I was already in a state that I was hitting the back shots well.”
Ganzi said it was one of his team’s toughest games of the tournament.
“It was an amazing game,” Ganzi said. “It was really tough. Those guys came with everything. They are a hell of a team.
“We thought we came in really well and they came back at us harder than we came at them. The last two minutes were insane. I just told the guys in the tent that we had to win this game.
"Gonzalito and Rodrigo are amazing," Ganzi said. "They are both 10 goals in my mind. I am so happy for them and our team."
Pieres scored a game-high six goals including five on penalty conversions. Azzaro, Ganzi and Andrade each had two goals.
At 16, Azzaro, the son of former 10-goaler Mike Azzaro, who watched and coached from the sidelines, will make his 20-goal final debut.
Spinacci led Valiente with five goals and Cavanagh had four.
The Sterling Cup is one of two classic and prestigious tournaments that the nation’s busiest and most innovative polo club has revived thanks to generosity of Glenn Straub of Palm Beach Polo, where the tournaments were last held.
Club owners Melissa and Marc Ganzi hope to recapture the legacy and prestige of polo’s hey days.
The Sterling Cup was the second tournament of the 22-goal season at Palm Beach Polo after the January Challenge Cup. It was considered the 22-goal championship and attracted as many as 18 teams. It was first played in 1989 at the 18-22 handicap.
The tournament is being live-streamed on ChukkerTV, worldwide leaders in polo broadcasting.
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.
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 GRAND CHAMPIONS WINTER SCHEDULE
(Subject to change because of weather and scheduling conflicts).
MARCH 14, Tuesday: $50,000 National 12-Goal Tournament Final, Casablanca vs. GSA, 4 p.m.
March 16, Thursday: Sterling Cup (20 goal) Championship Final, Casablanca vs. Travieso, 4 p.m.
MARCH: Madelon Bourdieu Memorial (6 goal), Limited Edition 8-Goal Series; Top Pony 12-Goal Series.
MARCH 17-April 1: The Molina Cup 20-Goal Tournament; Santa Rita Abierto (Subs. Handicap).
Women’s League, every Wednesday, 10 and 11 a.m.
APRIL 1-15: $100,000 World Cup Tournament (0-26 Goals), winner-take-all, single- elimination.
APRIL 1-25: Las Acacias (4-8 Goals).
APRIL 5-8: WCT Finals, Women’s Polo Week and Celebration of Sunny Hale’s Life.
GRAND CHAMPIONS POLO CLUB
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 Casablanca. Everyone is welcome to watch every level of polo in a relaxed atmosphere that includes 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.