WELLINGTON, Fl., April 7, 2017---The showdown between Grand Champions Polo Club-based pro teams Audi and Flexjet lived up to expectationsThursday at International Polo Club Palm Beach.
The physical, penalty-marred game was close between the well-matched teams with Flexjet holding off Audi for a 10-9 victory in both teams’ tournament opener.
Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, Nico Pieres, Gonzalito Pieres, Rodrigo Andrade) and Audi (Marc Ganzi, Nic Roldan, Magoo Laprida, Alejandro Novillo Astrada) showed why they are two of the strongest teams in the six-team field for the three-week tournament.
“It’s always nice to start the Open winning, for sure, it helps our confidence,” Gonzalito Pieres said. “It’s a bit better to start winning. This was only the second time we play together so we had to adjust a few things. At some points of the game we felt quite comfortable.”
The game was hotly-contested for six chukkers. Audi jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the opening chukker behind Ganzi and Novillo Astrada goals, taking advantage of three missed penalty shots by Flexjet.
Flexjet bounced right back with three goals of its own, two penalty conversions by Gonzalito Pieres and one goal from Andrade for a 3-3 second chukker.
Flexjet maintained its rhythm to outscore Audi 4-2 in the third chukker for a 7-5 halftime lead. After that, Flexjet never relinquished its two-goal lead even though it had its own problems scoring goals against Audi’s pressure defense.
“I am happy with the win,” Andrade said. “The team is quite good but this is our first game so we have to adapt to some things. We will be a good team.”
Audi shut down Flexjet’s offensive attack allowing them only three second-half goal attempts but could never get its own offense going, missing 1-of-7 attempts in the fifth chukker. With four potent scorers, Audi was 2-of-10 from the field and 2-of-4 from the penalty line even though it dominated in winning the throw-ins (15). Audi cut the lead to one on Roldan’s penalty conversion before time ran out.
“It came down to the possession of the ball,” Gonzalito Pieres said. “They are four guys running and played quite good. We made a few silly mistakes when we thought we had more time than we did.”
Flexjet converted 6-of-13 shots from the field and Audi 7-of-17. Flexjet was 4-of-7 in penalty conversions and Audi 2-of-4. Audi led in fouls, 10-7 and throw-ins, 15-11.
"I am super happy with the win,” Melissa Ganzi said. “The team played really well. I played with Gonzalito in 2008 in the U.S. Open and the whole 26-goal season, so it’s really fun to play with him again.”
Ganzi also played with Nico Pieres when he was 15 and one of her favorite 26-goal teams featured Andrade along with Alejandro Novillo Astrada and Roldan.
"I have a really positive history playing with every one of these players, so it’s really nice,” she said.
“I think winning your first game in the Open is good for any team’s confidence,” Ganzi said. “Of course, it’s bittersweet having to beat Audi. We look forward to our game on Sunday and hopefully we will have a good game and go on from there.”
Ganzi said her current team “are all really nice players to play with and they are good sports and exhibit excellent sportsmanship and they are gentlemen. They are wonderful to play polo with.”
Nico Pieres, recently raised to 10 goals in Argentina, missed the Butler Cup and joined the team for its’Tuesday game against Valiente II in the opening round of the $100,000 World Cup after returning from playing in Dubai. It was only Pieres’ second game with his new team but it didn’t show.
“It’s good to win with this team, a win is a win,” Nico Pieres said. “I was a bit out of rhythm but it is good to start playing and winning. Audi has good players. We have a good team, we won with this team in 2011. It’s good to be back here.
“Being 10-goal in Argentina is a good prize and motivation for the future,” Pieres said. “Now I have to improve a bit here (in the U.S.).”
Gonzalito Pieres led Flexjet scoring with six goals including four on penalty conversions. Nico Pieres and Andrade each had two goals.
Roldan and Novillo Astrada each had four goals for Audi. Ganzi added one.
Audi (0-1) and Flexjet (1-0) return to the field on Sunday. Audi takes on defending U.S. Open champion Orchard Hill (0-1) at 10 a.m. and Flexjet will play Travieso (0-1) in the featured 3 p.m. game on Engel & Volkers Field.
Rated No. 1 by Consumer Reports as the best auto brand overall, Audi is a valued sponsor with a rich winning tradition in polo. The German automobile manufacturer designs, engineers, produces, markets and distributes luxury automobiles throughout the world including West Palm Beach.
Flexjet 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 and unlike anything else in the sky.
The tournament is being live-streamed on the USPA Polo Network at uspolo.org with content provided by production company and Wellington-based ChukkerTV. All games will also be available for on-demand viewing.
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 in all walks of life 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).
APRIL: $100,000 World Cup Tournament (0-26 Goals), APRIL 4-15: $100,000 World Cup Tournament (0-26 Goals), single- elimination: Friday, 4:30 p.m., Orchard Hill vs. Travieso;Saturday, 4 p.m., San Saba vs. Deeridge; Second round, April 9-10.
APRIL: 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 and Flexjet. 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.