By Sharon Robb
WELLINGTON, Fl., March 13, 2018---After two exciting overtime semifinal games, the stage is set for the finals of the $50,000 National 12-Goal Tournament Saturday at Grand Champions Polo Club.
BEVERLY EQUESTRIAN 10, WILDCAT 9
Beverly Equestrian (Bill Ballhaus, 0, Hilario Figueras, 2, Tolito Ocampo, 4, Carlucho Arellano, 5) and Wildcat (Wes Bryan, 3, Jason Crowder, 6, Del Walton, 3, Ryan Gilbertson, 0) expected a hardfought, physical game and it was.
"That team is awesome," Ballhaus said. "Wildcat is a great team. Obviously, it was a great game. We just hung in there. We stuck with our system, made a couple changes and played hard all the way through."
Beverly Equestrian jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the opening chukker but Wildcat came right back with a 3-2 chukker to trail 5-3 after the second chukker. Beverly Equestrian maintained its two-goal lead to go into halftime with a 6-4 advantage.
Wildcat came out attacking in the fourth behind Crowder for a 2-1 chukker to cut Beverly Equestrian's lead to 7-6. Figueras' goal gave Beverly Equestrian another two-goal cushion but with 30 seconds remaining in the fifth, Bryan's incredible goal cut the lead to one, 8-7, and Crowder's penalty-four conversion tied the game at 8-8 with 4:44 left to go.
Crowder's goal in the final two minutes gave Wildcat the lead, 9-8, for the first time, but Beverly Equestrian rallied in the final seconds with Arellano scoring in the final seconds to send the game into overtime.
"That game was awesome," Arellano said. "I thought Jason brought it back and made a Superman effort and pretty much almost beat us. It was a tough team to beat. We are in the final now and now we are going to concentrate on that."
Arellano scored the winning goal at the 6:55 mark of overtime.
"We went in to the throw-in saying win the throw-in, win the chukker," Ballhaus said. "We are very happy to be in the final. We are looking forward to whoever wins the other semifinal and excited to be in the final."
It will be Beverly Equestrian's second consecutive 12-goal final at Grand Champions this season. Beverly Equestrian was runner-up in the Sieber Memorial, losing 11-10 to Patagones.
Arellano led Beverly Equestrian with four goals. Figueras had three and Ocampo added two. Arellano praised his teammates after scoring the overtime goal.
"Tolito made a really smart play on the boards where he controlled it and just crushed it up the center," Arellano said. "He put it up there around the 60 and they got a back shot off, but I was able to pick it up on that little mare. She turns inside out and I was able to turn to get it and turn back in to goal and it was there for the taking."
Crowder led Wildcat with six goals, Bryan, playing above his three-goal rating, had two goals and Walton added one.
GSA 8, TEAM USPA 7
Defending champion GSA (Henry Porter, 2, Santino Magrini, 3, Nachi Viana, 2, Toro Ruiz, 5) returns to the final to defend its title and will try to become the first team in tournament history to win back-to-back titles.
Trailing for most of the game, Team USPA (Julia Smith, 0, Nick Johnson, 3, Felipe Viana, 5, Tommy Alberdi, 4) rallied in the sixth chukker behind Alberdi's safety conversion to cut the lead to one, 7-6, and another goal from the field to tie the game with 1:16 left.
GSA had one final scoring opportunity in regulation time but fell short sending the game into overtime.
Porter won the overtime throw-in and after each team exchanged possession, GSA broke away to score the game-winner. GSA got balanced scoring from Magrini with four goals, Nachi Viana and Ruiz with two each.
Alberdi led Team USPA with four goals, Felipe Viana had two and Smith had one.
Porter, Magrini and Ruiz return off last year's winning GSA team. In the final, GSA defeated Casablanca (Matias Gonzalez, Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Jesse Bray), 13-6, and became the youngest team in tournament history to win. Zubia scored a game-high six goals, Ruiz had five and Magrini scored two.
The fifth annual eight-team, winner-take-all, single-elimination tournament is the only tournament in the nation to offer major prize money at the 12-goal level.
Grand Champions Polo Club and Santa Rita Polo Farm is the largest and most unique private 100-acre 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.
During fall, winter and spring seasons, Grand Champions Polo Club, the nation's largest club with 11 well-manicured fields, hosts polo tournaments ranging from six to 26-goal in addition to special events.
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.
During the 2017 winter season Grand Champions attracted a record 72 teams and another 18 teams during the spring season.
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.