By Sharon Robb
WELLINGTON, Fl., March 23, 2018--Flexjet rallied for four goals in the sixth chukker to win its first game of the USPA Gold Cup Thursday at International Polo Club Palm Beach.
Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, A, Nico Pieres, 8, Gonzalito Pieres, 9, Rodrigo Andrade, 9), tied 5-5 with Audi (Grant Ganzi, 2, Mike Azzaro, 6, Polito Pieres, 10, Nic Roldan, 8) after five chukkers, bounced back for a thrilling 9-6 victory in the battle of Grand Champions Polo Club-based pro teams.
"This win is good for us," Nico Pieres. "We need to win our next one to go through and if we lose we still can have another chance in a shootout."
In biting cold and winds gusting 10 to 15 miles per hour, the score was tied three times before Nico Pieres opened the sixth chukker with a great goal run at the 7:02mark to give Flexjet its first lead of the game, 6-5 and first of three unanswered goals.
Flexjet never let up with another nice goal run by Andrade and second goal by Nico Pieres. Flexjet won the throw-in each time.
"We were saving everything for the last chukker," Nico Pieres said with a smile. "We started playing more or less a bit better in the second half."
Ten-goaler Polito Pieres, making his IPC winter season debut after arriving from Dubai on Wednesday, scored his fourth and final goal to cut the lead to two, 8-6, with 2:10 left in the game.
"I knew Polito was going to play because he arrived yesterday and told us last night he was going to play," Nico Pieres said. "We are used to playing against family. Sometimes I play against Facu and Gonza, we are used to it."
Melissa Ganzi took possession of the ball in the final two minutes and worked the clock while going to goal to ice the win with her second score of the game between three Audi defenders.
"I am very happy with our team," Ganzi said. "It's always hard to play against your son. It was a really difficult day to play with the wind and cold. It was hard to hit the ball today especially for me. It was a nice win but now we have a really tough game on Sunday."
Flexjet improved to 1-1 to remain alive in bracket play in the six-team tournament. Audi dropped to 0-2.
"It was an important win, we are back again in the tournament at 1-1," Gonzalito Pieres said. "This put us in a position that winning Sunday will put us in second place or if we lose we have a penalty shootout for fourth place.
"We are trying to play good together as a team. We know the potential that we have and we have to prove it in the right games. I was missing a lot of goals in the beginning but luckily Nico, Rodrigo and Melissa had some good goals in the end. It's how we have to play. When we have our chance, we have to take it and when things are not going well we need to be patient because we can win it in the end."
Flexjet plays undefeated Daily Racing Form (2-0) (Jared Zenni, 5, Agustin Obregon, 5, Hilario Ulloa, 10, Mariano Obregon) Sunday at noon. Audi plays winless Colorado (0-2) (Robert Jornayvaz, 1, Juan Britos, 7, Magoo Laprida, 8, Diego Cavanagh, 9) at 3 p.m. in the featured stadium game.
Nico Pieres scored a team-high four goals for Flexjet. Melissa Ganzi and Rodrigo Andrade each had two and Gonzalito Pieres added one.
Polito Pieres led Audi with four goals. Mike Azzaro and Nic Roldan each had one goal.
Both teams shot below .500. Flexjet was 9-of-22 in field shot conversions and Audi was 5-of-16. Audi was 1-of-1 in penalty conversions and Flexjet was 0-of-1. Audi led the near foul-free game, 2-1 and throw-ins 11-7.
The game featured three members, brothers Gonzalito and Nico Pieres and cousin Polito Pieres, of the Ellerstina team that finished runner-up to longtime rival La Dolfina in the 124th Argentine Open last year.
Flexjet, a valued polo sponsor, 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.
Rated No. 1 by Consumer Reports as the best auto brand overall, Audi is another valued sponsor with a rich winning tradition in polo. The German automobile manufacturer designs, engineers, produces, markets and distributes luxury automobiles throughout the world. Audi, founded in 1909, oversees its worldwide operations from its headquarters in Ingolstadt, Bavaria, Germany and local distributorship in West Palm Beach.
USPA Polo Network is live streaming the IPC winter season, including the entire USPA Gold Cup tournament, with content from Wellington-based ChukkerTV.
Grand Champions Polo Club and Santa Rita Polo Farm is the largest and most unique 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.
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.