La Indiana Edges Grand Champions Polo Club In Joe Barry Cup; Toro Ruiz Named MVP

Grand Champions teammates Mike Azzaro, Grant Ganzi and Juancito Bollini head back to the players, tent between chukkers. Photo by ChukkerTV

Grand Champions teammates Mike Azzaro, Grant Ganzi and Juancito Bollini head back to the players, tent between chukkers. Photo by ChukkerTV

WELLINGTON, FL., January 15, 2018---The rollercoaster ride continued for Grand Champions Polo Club in the Joe Barry Cup Sunday at International Polo Club Palm Beach.

For the second game in a row, the foursome of Grant Ganzi, 2, Juancito Bollini, 4, Nico Pieres, 8, and Mike Azzaro, 6, was trailing La Indiana (Michael Bickford, 2, Toro Ruiz, 5, Facundo Obregon, 6, Jeff Hall, 7) before digging themselves out of a hole late in the game only to lose another heartbreaker, 9-8.

On Thursday, Grand Champions Polo Club rallied from a seven-goal deficit against Tonkawa but lost 9-8.

La Indiana jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the opening chukker with goals from Bickford at the 3:00 mark and 60-yard penalty-four conversion by Hall. Grand Champions squandered away its scoring opportunities in the first chukker when Pieres missed a penalty-two with 4:53 left and missed a long goal attempt from the field with 1:52 left.

Grand Champions roared back in the second chukker shutting out La Indiana while tying the game at 2-2 with two Pieres' penalty-two conversions.

With both teams struggling offensively in the third chukker, Grand Champions took a 3-2 halftime lead on Pieres penalty-two conversion. Pieres and Obregon missed scoring opportunities late in the chukker.

La Indiana found its momentum in the fourth chukker taking advantage of unforced errors and outscoring Grand Champions, 4-0, to regain the lead, 6-3. Hall picked up a loose ball and scored La Indiana's first goal since the first chukker, tying the game at 3-3. Ruiz followed with back-to-back goals, wowing the crowd with his ball control in the air. Obregon then converted a penalty-three with 48 seconds left.

After Hall hit the goal post on a scoring attempt to open the fifth chukker, Ruiz converted a penalty-two for La Indiana's fifth unanswered goal and 7-3 lead. Pieres scored Grand Champions first goal of the second half on a penalty-three to cut the lead to 7-4. After Pieres lost possession, Ruiz scored another penalty-two for an 8-4 advantage.

Grand Champions rallied in the sixth chukker. Pieres converted back-to-back penalty shots to trail 8-6 with 4:04 left. A minute later Azzaro scored his team's first goal from the field to trail by only one, 8-7. 

Grand Champions won the next throw-in but Obregon stole the ball and started to eat up the clock. Pieres took possession with 1:54 but lost the ball. Hall took the ball and drove down for a neck shot just inside the 40-yard line to give La Indiana a 9-7 lead with 1:23 left in the game. Hall then fouled with 40 seconds to set up Pieres final penalty conversion of the game but Grand Champions ran out of time to mount another offensive threat.

La Indiana's Toro Ruiz, 19, who scored four goals, was named Most Valuable Player and his Don Ercole Mentira was Best Playing Pony.

Hall finished with three goals. Bickford and Obregon each had one goal.

Eight-goaler Nico Pieres scored seven of Grand Champions goals on six penalty-two and one penalty-three conversions. Former 10-goaler Mike Azzaro scored his team's only goal from the field. 

Grand Champions dropped to 1-2 in the 11-team tournament after defeating SD Farms, 11-7, in its tournament opener on Monday. 

In other Sunday games, Sebastian Merlos scored a game-high eight goals to lead unbeaten Travieso to a 12-6 victory over SD Farms and Tonkawa remained undefeated with a 13-9 win over Coca-Cola.

Grand Champions plays Pilot (Timmy Dutta, 1, Facundo Pieres, 10, Gonzalito Pieres, 9, Curtis Pilot, A) on Sunday at noon at IPC. It is one of five games scheduled because of rain and wet fields playing havoc with the schedule last week.

USPA Polo Network is live streaming the IPC winter season, including the entire Joe Barry Cup tournament, with content from Wellington-based ChukkerTV.

The tournament, created in 2005, is named after Joe Barry, a big-hitting 9-goal ranked American player, born and raised in Truscott, Tex., and one of the most well-liked players in the game. He dominated polo in the 1960s and 1970s.

The six-time U.S. Open winner was inducted into the Polo Hall of Fame in 1999. He also won three Gold Cups, three Silver Cups as well as Coronation and Camacho Cup trophies. Barry died on May 18, 2002 at age 58.

Grand Champions Polo Club and Santa Rita Polo Farm is the largest and most unique polo facility in Wellington with 120 stalls in five self-contained barns, exercise track, five climate-controlled tack rooms, vet room, staff quarters, guest house and polo fields with state-of-the-art underground irrigation and stick-and-ball fields.

The club features monthly 6, 8 and 12-goal tournaments and women's weekly league play during the winter season in addition to two 16-20 tournaments, $50,000 National 12 Goal, $100,000 World Cup winner-take-all 0-40-goal tournament, WCT Tournament and USPA National President's Cup.

Grand Champions 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 Club Hotline is 561-644-5050. It will be updated every day at 8 a.m. for both players and fans.