WELLINGTON, FL., January 9, 2018---Grand Champions Polo Club opened its 20-goal winter season with a hardfought 11-7 victory over SD Farms Monday at International Polo Club's Isla Carroll West.
Playing together for the first time, 8-goaler Nico Pieres, 6-goaler Mike Azzaro and up-and-coming players Juancito Bollini, 4-goals and Grant Ganzi, 2 goals, needed the opening half to find their rhythm before turning it around in the second half.
"I like games like that, it was fun," Ganzi said. "It took us a while to get going. We are a really good four-man team. We had some little miscues and obviously we can play better but I like this team. They closed us down and made it close in the first half and in the second half we found out what worked for us."
SD Farms (Felipe Miguens, 2, Adam Snow, 5, Inaki Laprida, 7, Peco Polledo, 6), making its IPC 20-goal debut, stayed with Grand Champions until Grand Champions shut down its offense, 3-0, in the fifth chukker and pulled away for good. Miguens was playing for Sayyu Dantata.
"It took a while, this was our first time playing together," Pieres said. "The fifth chukker was a good chukker. The second half we played much better."
Grand Champions led 2-1 and 4-3 after the first two chukkers before SD Farms outscored them 2-1 on goals from Snow and Laprida for a 5-5 halftime tie.
With goals from Azzaro and Pieres Grand Champions moved ahead, 7-6, in the fourth chukker and gained momentum in the fifth, outscoring SD Farms, 3-0, for a 10-6 lead.
Pieres, the youngest of three polo-playing brothers, led Grand Champions in scoring with a game-high five goals including four penalty conversions.
"We didn't have many practices so I think this was a good start," Pieres said. "I'm happy we started with a win and the kids played very well. I think this team is a good team. We are a four-man team so that's good. We have to take the good things from this game and be ready for the next one because we are in a really tough bracket."
Azzaro added four goals including an incredible angled lofted shot from the deep corner of the field with 55 seconds left in the fifth chukker to give Grand Champions a 10-6 lead.
"We needed to hit the ball in the first half," Azzaro said. "They were double and triple-teaming Nico. No one could get out of that and the rest of us were sitting and watching as spectators. We are a hit-and-run team and that made all the difference in the world."
Ganzi, 19, and Bollini, 21, each had one goal and played well in the physical contest. Laprida, playing against his former teammates, finished with four goals and Snow added two.
"It was more about the rhythm in the first half," Bollini said. "We weren't expecting them to be so tough on the man, we thought they would play more open-style polo. It took us a few chukkers to re-adjust. At the start of the second half we figured out what we needed to do and it was the right thing to do."
It was the first time Bollini played with Pieres. "I have played with Mike a bunch and obviously Grant, but it just took time to get use to Nico, who is the head of the team. That's the biggest factor when you change that."
The game featured two former 10-goalers, Azzaro and Snow, from polo's heyday.
"It's been a while being on the same field with him," Azzaro said. "It was fun. It was nice to see him out there again."
Grand Champions plays Tonkawa on Thursday at 3 p.m. in the third game of a tripleheader. At 10 a.m., Coca Cola plays Pilot and 12:30 p.m. Travieso takes on defending champion La Indiana.
Grand Champions' win was the largest margin of victory after three close games (Modere 7, Colorado 6 (OT); Travieso 13, Pilot 11; and La Indiana, 10, Coca Cola 7, during the first week of the 11-team tournament.
"It's always important to win your first game of the season," Ganzi said. "We have some tough games ahead and we are in a tough bracket. This was a big, big win. I can't wait to get back out there."
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.
2018 Winter Schedule
(Subject to change because of weather and scheduling conflicts).
Aspen Valley Cup- 8 Goal Game Schedule
Wednesday, January 10 @3pm- Dutta Corp vs Newport; Sunday, January 14 @10am - Altair Polo vs Patagones; Friday, January 19 @1pm - Newport vs Altair Polo; Sunday, January 21 @10am - Newport vs Patagones; Monday, January 22 @10am - Dutta Corp vs Altair Polo; Wednesday, January 31 @3:30pm - Dutta Corp vs Patagones; Friday, February 2 @3:30pm- Aspen Valley Cup 8 Goal Final
Limited Edition 12 Goal Game Schedule
Friday, January 12 @ 1pm- Beverly Equestrian vs Palm Beach Equine; Friday, January 12 @ 3pm- Patagones vs Sebucan; Sunday, January 14 @ 12pm- Beverly Equestrian vs GSA/Goose Creek; Tuesday, January 16 @ 3pm- Dutta Corp vs Sebucan; Thursday, January 18 @3pm - Palm Beach Equine vs GSA/Goose Creek; Friday, January 19 @ 3pm - Patagones vs Dutta Corp; Friday, January 26 @1pm- Limited Edition 12 Goal Semifinals; Friday, January 26 @3pm- Limited Edition 12 Goal Semifinals; Saturday, January 27 @3pm- Aspen Valley Cup Finals; Sunday, January 28 @10am- Limited Edition 12 Goal Handicap Final; Sunday, January 28 @12pm- Limited Edition 12 Goal Final
Women's Polo Weekly League, Wednesday, 10 a.m.
FEB. 1-25: Halo Polo 6-Goal Trophy; FEB. 1-25: Top Pony 8-Goal Series; FEB. 2-24: Sieber Memorial 12-Goal Trophy; FEB. 21-MAR. 17: Sterling 16-20 Cup; FEB. 21-MAR. 17: Sterling Cup Subsidiary; Women's Polo Weekly League.
MARCH 1-24: Madelon Bourdieu 6-Goal Memorial; MARCH 1-24: The Limited Edition 8-Goal Series; MARCH 1-10: $50,000 National 12-Goal Tournament; MARCH 1-31: Top Pony 12-Goal Series; MARCH 14-31: John T. Oxley 16-20 Goal Memorial; MARCH 14-31: John T. Oxley 16-20 Memorial Subsidiary; Women's Polo Weekly League.
APRIL 3-8: WCT Tournament; APRIL 1-18: Las Acacias 4-8 Goal; APRIL 1-14: $100,000 World Cup (0-40); APRIL 12-21: National President's Cup; Women's Polo Weekly League.