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Casablanca Familiar Faces Win Sieber Memorial 12-Goal Opener At Santa Rita

WELLINGTON, Fla., February 25, 2024--The opening game of the 34th Sieber Memorial was a fun reunion for Casablanca players.

By Sharon Robb

Photos by Candace Ferreira

Casablanca (Santos Bollini, 2, Grant Ganzi, 3, Wes Finlayson, 3, Juancito Bollini, 4) defeated Dead End/Westheaven (Evan White, 2, Max Torokvei, 0, Santi Llavalol, 5, Manu Villamil, 5), 11-8, Saturday at Santa Rita Polo Farm's Aspen Field.

While Santos Bollini and Ganzi have been playing regularly in Wellington, longtime friends Wes Finlayson, who now lives in Nashville, and Juancito Bollini reunited to play in the second 12-goal tournament of the winter season in preparation for the upcoming $50,000 National 12-Goal Tournament.

"It was awesome to have all the boys back," said Ganzi, Brand Ambassador for Casablanca. "It was really great to be back with Juancito and Wes, we've played a long time together. They have been really great teammates at all levels of polo. That's what it's all about, having fun. It worked out really well."

Casablanca played well throughout the game. Casablanca led 3-2 after Juancito Bollini opened the game with an incredible tail shot. Finlayson then connected with Ganzi on a great pass enabling Ganzi to score. Finlayson converted a 60-yard penalty at a walk for a 3-2 opening chukker lead.

Casablanca, playing a wide open style of polo, never relinquished its lead building a 6-2 lead in the second chukker with Juancito Bollini scoring back-to-back goals including a 70-yarder for a 3-0 advantage to end the chukker. With good passing and nice rotation Casablanca continued to dominate for a 7-3 halftime lead.

The chemistry between teammates continued in the second half with leads of 9-4 and 10-5 after the fourth and fifth chukkers. Casablanca's swarming defense never gave up the easy shots making it tough for Dead End/Westheaven to score.

Dead End/Westheaven found its offensive punch in the final chukker, outscoring Casablanca 3-1 to close the gap to three goals.

"That was a tough team and not an easy team to play against in our first game," Ganzi said. "Santi has some really nice horses. He plays a really good brand of polo and is very talented. Manu Villamil has been rising up the ranks recently in the states. Evan White made the jump to 2 goal and has great horses and organization. And Max played real well today."

It had been a while since Finlayson and Bollini had played in competitive games but the rust rarely showed.

"Wes played in Nashville over the summer in 8-goal with Orrin Ingram," Ganzi said. "And Juancito played a practice or a game at some point in the fall and before that beach polo last year.

"It was amazing to go out there just in general," Ganzi said. "Obviously, to come out the way we did and dominate and win was great and obviously we're happy. The most important thing was just get out there and make a good plan and do it the right way. The fact that we won was a consolation.

"I was just happy to be there with my friends and to be able to get everyone mounted well and having Pancho (Bensadon) as a coach which was a super nice thing for him to do and get organized with a really good gameplan."

Casablanca got balanced scoring from its lineup. Santos Bollini scored a team-high five goals. Big brother Juancito Bollini had three goals, Ganzi had two and Finlayson added one.

For Dead End/Westheaven, Villamil scored a game-high six goals. White and Torokvei each had one goal.

The tournament is named in honor of polo player Robert J. Sieber, Jr., who died in a polo-related accident August 22, 1984 at Oak Brook, Ill. He was 29. His legacy continues with the annual tournament.

The tournament was first created by the Oxley family and first played at the now-defunct Royal Palm Polo Sports Club in Boca Raton and later resurrected by Marc and Melissa Ganzi at Grand Champions. The last game held at Royal Palm before it closed was the Sieber Memorial final.

Last season Dundas won the title for the third consecutive year. Dundas (Miki Novillo Astrada, 1, Mia Cambiaso 2, Roberto Zedda, 3, Geronimo Obregon, 5) broke open a close game in the second half to defeat Senvest Excalibor (Richard Mashaal, 0, Evan White Jr., 1, Santiago Llavalol, 5, Pedro Falabella, 6), 13-6. Mia Cambiaso, the oldest daughter of Argentine great Adolfo Cambiaso, was selected MVP. Her horse, Dolfina Fantasia, was Best Playing Pony.



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