WELLINGTON, Fl., March 28, 2017---After a shaky fifth chukker, Travieso rallied for a 12-10 victory over Casablanca on Monday to secure a semifinal berth in the Molina Cup at Grand Champions Polo Club.
Travieso (1-1) will play Goose Creek (2-0) in the opening semifinal game Wednesday at 4 p.m.
In the other semifinal, Dutta Corp (2-0) plays Beverly Equestrian (1-1) on Thursday, also at 4 p.m.The winners advance into Saturday’s 4 p.m.championship 20-goal final.
Travieso (Teo Calle, Torito Ruiz, Sebastian Merlos, Hugo Barabucci) and Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Jesse Bray) were well-matched from the opening chukker.
The first two chukkers the teams were tied four times before Travieso took a 5-4 lead at the end of the second chukker.
An early Merlos goal in the third chukker gave Travieso a two-goal lead, 6-4 which the team kept throughout the chukker to take a 7-5 lead into halftime.
In the second half, Travieso took advantage of Casablanca missed scoring opportunities to lead 10-6 early in the fifth chukker after Merlos converted a penalty goal with 6:55 left.
Casablanca bounced back with four unanswered goals to tie the game 10-10 at 1:10 of the fifth chukker on Bollini’s goal off a rebounded Bray shot.
Travieso regained its poise in the final chukker to regain the lead on another Merlos goal at the 7:00mark. Casablanca’s missed scoring opportunities and penalties at the most inopportune time opened the door for Travieso which scored an insurance goal with 37 seconds left on Merlos penalty-three conversion.
Merlos finished with seven goals, Barabucci had three and Ruiz added two.
“I think this is a really important win, especially for our heads,” Merlos said. “We had a not very good game at the beginning of the tournament and we needed to win today. A win was going to put us in semis or leave us outside.
“I think we started really well,” Merlos said. “We got control of the game and possession of the ball. Then we had a really bad second half with the fifth chukker. They pushed us a bit more and we started hesitating and not playing our game. They got our heads twisted and we stepped out of our plan which was bad. Then we came back and had a really good last chukker.”
Merlos is looking forward to playing Goose Creek which he said is “a really good team. We are better when we are the underdogs,” Merlos added.
Barabucci stopped a key Astrada goal attempt with a defensive tail shot late in the game.
“We are so happy honestly,” Barabucci said. “After we had a good start, the fifth chukker we lost our concentration that gave the other team a chance. Then we came back again thank God in the last chukker. They are a very good team. All of them play fantastic and never gave up.”
At 18, Ruiz continues to play well above his handicap. Ruiz said he plans to play in next month’s $100,000 World Cup with a team still to be determined and then return to Argentina to play.
“I am very happy getting into semis,” Ruiz said. “I was a little bit nervous when they tied the game but then the four of us started again to play our game and we got up again.
“Our team is getting better and better and playing amazing.”
Calle is preparing for Travieso’s U.S. Open debut next week. Calle will play with Alfredo Capella, Sebastian Merlos and Mariano Gonzalez in the six-team tournament. Other teams competing are Grand Champions-based Audi and Flexjet, Coca-Cola, Orchard Hill and Valiente.
“We are very happy to be in the semifinals,” Calle said. “It’s always the goal of a team to be able to be in the semifinals. More than that is for us to play well and to be able to interact and recover like what we did. That shows a lot of heart and determination which is the base of a team.”
The Molina Cup, a first-year 20-goal tournament, comes on the heels of the successful and historical 20-goal Sterling Cup won by Travieso (Tony Calle, Torito Ruiz, Sebastian Merlos, Hugo Barabucci).
The two-week tournament features a star-studded lineup of some of the world’s top players from six different countries.
The 120-year-old handcrafted silver Molina Cup trophy was given to Marc Ganzi by Alfredo Molina, Chairman of the Phoenix-based Molina Group and owner of Molina Fine Jewelers.
Ganzi was competing in the Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships this past fall and admired Molina’s work with the winning trophy presented to two-time defending champion Aspen Valley Polo Club (Melissa Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Nic Roldan) at the Scottsdale event.
The tournament is being live-streamed on Wellington-based 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 SCHEDULE
(Subject to change because of weather and scheduling conflicts).
MARCH 17-APRIL 1, Molina Cup (20 goal): Wednesday, Goose Creek vs. Travieso, 4 p.m.; Thursday, Dutta Corp vs. Beverly Equestrian,4 p.m.; Saturday, Final, 4 p.m.
MARCH: Madelon Bourdieu Memorial (6 goal); Limited Edition 8-Goal Series; Top Pony 12-Goal Series.
Women’s League, Wednesday, Monthly League Final, consolation 10 a.m., final 11 a.m.
APRIL 3-15: $100,000 World Cup Tournament (0-26 Goals), winner-take-all, single- elimination.
APRIL 1-25: Las Acacias (4-8 Goals).
APRIL 21-23: GCPC Abierto.
APRIL 28-30: USPA Eastern Challenge.
MAY 5-7: USPA Sun Cup
MAY 12-14: The Spring Challenge Cup.
MAY 19-21: Polo Gear Invitational.
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.
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.