Nov 20, 2019 4:31 PM


Article courtesy of Grand Champions Polo Club

Grant Ganzi of Aspen Valley hits a deep neck shot with Juan Bollini of Flexjet defending.
Grant Ganzi of Aspen Valley hits a deep neck shot with Juan Bollini defending.

The opening game of the National Twenty Goal® lived up to expectations on Tuesday, November 19, at Grand Champions Polo Club in Wellington, Florida. Playing together for the first time, Aspen Valley (Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Horacio Heguy, Jeff Blake) knocked Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, Pablo Spinacci, Camilo Castagnola, Juan Bollini) out of the six-team, single-elimination tournament with a high-scoring 16-13 victory.

Aspen Valley will advance into Saturday's first semifinal against Sebucan (Pablo Pulido, Kris Kampsen, Jason Crowder, Tommy Biddle) at 10am ET. The winner will qualify for the final on Wednesday, November 27, at 3pm ET. All games will be livestreamed on USPA Polo Network with Toby Wayman announcing the action.

"Sebucan is a really tough team," Grant Ganzi said. "Hopefully, we will get another practice in with the horses before we play them."

Camilo Castagnola of Flexjet goes to hit with Jeff Blake of Aspen Valley on his hip.
Camilo Castagnola of Flexjet prepares to hit with Aspen Valley's Jeff Blake on his hip.

The game marked the Grand Champions debut of Argentine teenager Camilo Castagnola, the son of former 10-goaler and six-time Argentine Open winner Lolo Castagnola. The 16-year-old scored a game-high five goals and displayed glimpses of why he is considered a rising star in the sport.

The game started off slowly, as both teams felt each other out in the first chukker. Flexjet began with two goals on handicap and Melissa Ganzi's goal from the throw-in increased their lead to 3-0. Scoring for Aspen Valley with 2:15 left on the clock, Grant Ganzi made the first goal for his team to end the chukker trailing by two goals.

"The game spoke for itself," Grant Ganzi said. "We just kept it simple. We all hit the ball to each other and eventually it worked out because we played for each other.”

Aspen Valley started gaining steam in the second chukker, winning most of the throw-ins and outscoring Flexjet 3-1, to take a 5-4 lead. The momentum continued in Aspen Valley's favor in the third and they led at halftime 9-6.

Jeff Blake of Aspen Valley avoids the hook of Juan Bollini of Flexjet.
Jeff Blake of Aspen Valley avoids the hook of Juan Bollini.

Entering the second half, Aspen Valley continued to carry the ball forward, ending the fourth 10-8. Flexjet started to close the gap in the fifth chukker, outscoring Aspen Valley 4-2, to trail by only one goal 13-12 at the end of the chukker.

Rallying for his team and making a pivotal shot, Castagnola tied the game at 13-all with 6:30 remaining on the clock. The even playing field was short lived however, with Aspen Valley outscoring Flexjet 3-1 in the final chukker with two goals from Heguy and one from Grant Ganzi.

"The field and the weather were perfect today," said Heguy, a six-time Argentine Open winner. "Our team played well and we had a lot of fun. It was the first time we played together and we did well with a strong team."

Flexjet's Camilo Castagnola works the ball out of the air with Horacio Heguy of Aspen Valley defending.
Flexjet's Camilo Castagnola works the ball out of the air.

Each member of Aspen Valley scoring four goals a piece, the team proved to be very balanced. "It was the first time I played with Horacio Heguy," Bollini said. "There was a learning curve for the first two to three chukkers. He is a great player and it's always fun to play with one of the greats. My job was to learn as much as I could.”

Juancito Bollini also emphasized the importance of starting off strong from the throw-in. "It was key for us to win the throw-ins because you are starting each play with an attack," Bollini said. "As long as you have possession of the game you always have a chance of winning.”