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Travieso Knocks Off Maltese Falcons, Casablanca Tops Alegria On Day Two Of Founders Cup; La Irenita Plays Audi Thursday

WELLINGTON, Fla., February 29, 2024--Travieso won its biggest game in club history on Wednesday in second day action of the World Polo League's Founders Cup at Grand Champions Polo Club.

By Sharon Robb

Photos by Candace Ferreira

With 42 seconds left in the game, Pipe Vercellino calmly converted a 60-yard penalty to lead Travieso to a thrilling 9-8 upset victory over Maltese Falcons led by the legendary Adolfo Cambiaso.

"I was thinking it was going in," said Calle, who last played with Vercellino when he was 13 in Chile. "Pipe is a machine. He makes it very simple for us and we trust him when he has the ball. I knew he could get the job done."

Travieso (Tony Calle, 3, Martin Jauregui, 6, Pipe Vercellino, 7, Juan Martin Nero, 10) led for most of the game against Maltese Falcons (Melissa Ganzi/Milo MacDonough, 0, Juan Martin Zubia, 9, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 7, Adolfo Cambiaso, 10) until Cambiaso scored with 1:17 to tie the game, 8-8.

"This feels awesome," said Calle, playing 26-goal polo for the first time in his young career. "I grew up watching Cambiaso. Getting to play with or against him is always a privilege. Today we were fortunate enough to beat this guy who doesn't get beat quite often. I'm just very happy."

Travieso jumped out to an early 4-1 lead in the opening chukker with two goals from Nero, one from Jauregui, a lofted shot past defending Cambiaso, and 40-yard penalty conversion from Vercellino. Ganzi's two goals in the first two chukkers cut the deficit to 4-2.

Travieso kept its offensive attack up early in the second chukker but missed three goal attempts. Vercellino attempted a 5A penalty spot hit, sailing 80 yards with Calle trying to tap it in before Cambiaso came up with the goal stop.

Late in the third chukker, Ganzi was hit by a back shot in the arm. After an injury timeout, Ganzi was replaced by Milo MacDonough, the youngest player to compete in the WPL. Last year he subbed for patron Gilberto Sayao.

Travieso led 6-3 at the half after Calle scored quickly off a throw-in and Nero scored again. Travieso was unable to score in the fourth chukker but stepped it up on defense, allowing only one goal and still led, 6-4. Travieso led 7-4 after the fifth chukker, not allowing Maltese Falcons to score.

"We had a couple goals that we didn't complete," Calle said. "The team changed a little bit and we tried to get adjusted to the new team that was playing on the field. All that mattered was to just get back in the rhythm of things. After a long pause it took a little while for us to get back out there."

In the final chukker Travieso led by as many as thee goals (8-5) with 3:30 left. Costly penalties allowed Maltese Falcons to close the gap with penalty conversions including Zubia hitting a 60-yarder to trail, 8-7, before Cambiaso came up with the game-tying goal.

"I think our gameplan today was go in there and take advantage of our numbers," Calle said. "We had four guys that were good with the ball and tried to move it as much as possible, play open polo and secure the ball when we had it and tried to score some goals. We wanted them chasing us instead of us chasing them."

Calle's father Teo worked with Marc and Melissa Ganzi to form a competitive 26-goal team. Teo Calle, who played in the All-Star Challenge, wanted his oldest son to "experience the 26" and asked him to play. The highest Calle had played was 20-goal.

It was the third time Calle played against Cambiaso and is now 2-1 against against the greatest player in the world, making his return to the WPL after a three-year absence.

"We're just happy to be out there on the field," Calle said. "We're very happy to play with them and very happy with the team they gave us.

"I can't thank my dad enough for giving me this opportunity. I'm just thrilled to be out there playing and sharing the field with these top-level athletes."

The chemistry is natural between the Travieso foursome. On Sunday Travieso played well against Park Place (Andrey Borodin, 0, Toly Ulloa, 8, Hilario Ulloa, 10, Cody Ellis, 5), the reigning U.S. Open champion, but lost, 12-11. Travieso outshot Park Place, 19-15, and led in throw-ins, 14-6.

"This win was huge," Calle said. "If we lost this one we had no opportunity to go to the semis. In my mind I want to keep on playing and keep on pushing for the final. We have the horses and team to do it so hopefully we get some more games in."

Calle is one of the most noticeable players on the field with his helmet covered in skulls. "That's just me, a little personality in there and thought it would be fun to put something different on it," Calle said. "My grandmother always asked me for a nice helmet that she could spot me on the live stream so a shout out to her."

Nero led Travieso with a game-high four goals. Vercellino added three goals, all on penalty conversions including two 60-yarders. Calle and Jauregui each had one.

Zubia led Maltese Falcons with three goals. Ganzi and Astrada each had two and Cambiaso had one. Travieso outshot Maltese Falcons, 16-11. Travieso led in throw-ins, 11-9.

Casablanca 17, Alegria 12

Sapo Caset put on a clinic converting penalty shots from any where on the field to lead Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, 3, Rufino Bensadon, 8, Sapo Caset, 9, Hilario Figueras, 6) to a come-from-behind victory over Alegria (Tincho Merlos, 7, Sugar Erskine, 6, Jason Crowder, 5, Fred Mannix, 7).

The 9-goaler scored a game-high 11 goals, all on penalty conversions from two to four, except for two goals from the field. Alegria kept shooting itself in the foot putting Caset on the penalty line with several unforced errors.

Alegria played well early in the game taking a 3-1 lead, including one goal on handicap, in the first chukker. Merlos scored three goals and Mannix one goal in the second chukker for a 7-4 lead.

Casablanca turned it around in the third chukker creating space to play its game while forcing Alegria into foul trouble  scoring five straight points to shut out Alegria (4-0) in the third chukker for a 9-7 halftime lead.

Casablanca continued pressing in the second half not allowing Alegria out of their own half of the field. Casablanca led 11-8 after four chukkers and 14-10 after the fifth chukker highlighted by a no-look back shot just inside the goal post by Ganzi.

In addition to Caset's scoring barrage, Bensadon and Ganzi each had three goals with Ganzi scoring all on pinpoint back shots. Casablanca outshot Alegria, 26-17.

On Thursday at 4 p.m., reigning All-Star Challenge champion Audi (Marc Ganzi, 1, Nic Roldan, 8, Jeta Castagnola, 10, Pancho Bensadon, 7) plays La Irenita (Gilberto Sayao, 0, Tomacho Pieres, 6, Gonzalito Pieres, 9, Pablo MacDonough, 10).

Nine teams are competing in the double- elimination tournament. Everyone plays the other two teams in their brackets. The teams will then be ranked 1-9 based on win-loss first, then net goals and then gross goals to determine who the top four teams are to advance into the semifinals. First plays fourth and second plays third.

Audi, one of the WPL's winningest teams, won last year's Founders Cup. After dominating most of the game, Audi (Marc Ganzi, 1, Jeta Castagnola, 10, Nic Roldan, 8, Fred Mannix, 7) needed an overtime chukker to defeat Richard Mille (Patricio Mayor, 0, Gonzalito Pieres, 9, Lucas James, 7, Pablo MacDonough, 10) 14-13. Jeta Castagnola was named MVP.

The WPL, the winter season's biggest highlight, continues to make history as the only 26-goal polo played outside of Argentina.



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