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AUDI AND TRAVIESO TO PLAY SATURDAY FOR NORTH AMERICAN CUP® TITLE

Oct 26, 2018 11:03 AM

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Pite Merlos of Travieso drives past Kris Kampsen of Flexjet in the first chukker.
Pite Merlos of Travieso drives past Kris Kampsen of Flexjet in the first chukker.

Story courtesy of Grand Champions Polo Club/Sharon Robb

The stage is set for what could be one of the most exciting championship finals in USPA North American Cup® history. Audi will meet Travieso for the coveted silver trophy on Saturday at 11:45am ET at Grand Champions Polo Club in Wellington, Florida, in front of an anticipated packed house and worldwide USPA Polo Network audience.

In the opening semifinal on Thursday, October 25, Travieso (Tony Calle*, Grant Ganzi*, Juan Cruz Merlos, Pite Merlos) advanced into the final with an impressive 14-9 victory over Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, Pablo Dorignac, Kris Kampsen/Dominic State, Juan Bollini, 5). In the second semifinal, Audi (Juancito Bollini, Justin Daniels*, Brandon Phillips, Pablo Spinacci) won a 9-7 thriller against Gracida Wines (Carlitos Gracida, Whistle Uys, Mariano Gracida, Julio Gracida).

Dominic State of Flexjet on his way to scoring one of his two goals in the fifth chukker.
Dominic State of Flexjet on his way to scoring one of his two goals in the fifth chukker.

In the first game, 16-goal Flexjet started with a 2-0 lead on handicap and built leads of 4-3 and 5-4 in the first two chukkers. In the third chukker, Travieso outscored Flexjet, 2-0, with goals from Calle and Pite Merlos for a 6-5 halftime advantage. Early in the fourth chukker, Flexjet was dealt a severe blow when 6-goaler Kris Kampsen strained his knee and was unable to continue. He was replaced by 2-goaler Dominic State.

"The momentum of the game changed when Kris got hurt," said Calle. "More than anything, we had a lot more space inside the field. We were able to take our time and do nice, consistent plays. It was nice being out there with Pite," Calle continued, who played with Pite and his son Juan Cruz twice in Argentina. "He manages the field well. Playing with both of them here is a lot of fun. I'm excited to be back here on the field and getting back into shape."

Travieso pulled away scoring three consecutive goals for a 9-5 lead with 3:05 left in the fourth chukker. Travieso ended up outscoring Flexjet 8-4 in the second half. Team USPA teammates Grant Ganzi and Tony Calle along with Juan Cruz Merlos shared high-scoring honors each with four goals. Pite Merlos, a former 10-goaler now rated at 8 goals, added two goals.

Justin Daniels of Audi gets ready for the hook as Whistle Uys of Gracida Wines goes for the nearside shot.
Justin Daniels of Audi gets ready for the hook as Whistle Uys of Gracida Wines goes for the nearside shot.

For Flexjet, Melissa Ganzi and State each had two goals. Dorignac, Kampsen and Bollini added one goal apiece. Despite playing together for the first time in a tournament, Travieso had instant chemistry. "This is a fun tournament and it's a great way to get ready for the season," said Grant Ganzi, a three-time winner of the North American Cup. "I like playing this kind of polo this time of the year. It was a shame Kris got hurt. We capitalized more in the second half. We had some bad luck in the first half, hitting the goal post twice. After Kris got hurt, we jumped out quick and wanted to keep the rhythm going."

Grant Ganzi, who has played with Sebastian and Tincho Merlos, enjoyed playing with Pite Merlos for the first time. "Pite is so smart the way he plays, it's like playing with one of those special players," Grant Ganzi said. "You know where he is going to be and he tells you little things during the game like Juan Martin Nero does. He helps you improve your game."

In the second semifinal, Audi and Gracida Wines, two evenly-matched teams, battled down to the wire. The lead changed hands 13 times before Pablo Spinacci hit two long back-to-back goals in the final three minutes of the game to clinch the victory. Phillips led Audi with a team-high four goals. Spinacci and Daniels each had two goals and Bollini added one. For Gracida Wines, Uys had a team-high four goals, Carlitos Gracida added two goals and Julio Gracida had one.

Before Saturday's final, the subsidiary game will feature Flexjet against Gracida Wines at 10am ET. The second tournament of the week at Grand Champions, the Fall Classic ,gets under way on Friday, October 26, at 5pm ET with Audi (Marc Ganzi, Justin Daniels, Kris Kampsen, Brandon Phillips) playing Sebucan (Pablo Pulido, Whistle Uys, Julio Gracida, Juancito Bollini). The final is slated for Sunday, October 28, at 10am ET.

Juancito Bollini of Audi and Mariano Gracida of Gracida Wines cross mallets for the ball.
Juancito Bollini of Audi and Mariano Gracida of Gracida Wines cross mallets for the ball.

Before each USPA North American Cup semifinal game, a moment of silence was observed for Lauren Biddle of Team USPA, who tragically died Monday morning in New Zealand. The USPA North American Cup is the club's first of two 20-goal tournaments of the fall season. In last year's USPA North American Cup, Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, MVP Mike Azzaro, Julio Arellano) defeated Audi (Guille Aguero, Brandon Phillips, Marc Ganzi, Carlucho Arellano), 11-9, in a wild game to the finish. 

The USPA North American Cup has a rich tradition in history dating back to 1974. The tournament has been a mainstay in American and Canadian polo for decades at the 16- to 20-goal level.  The inaugural winner was Tulsa with Hall of Famers John T. Oxley and Billy Linfoot, Corky Linfoot and Jim MacGinley. During the late 1990s and early 2000s Calgary Polo Club hosted the tournament. The tournament has been held at Grand Champions since 2011.

*Tony Calle, Grant Ganzi and Justin Daniels are members of Team USPA. Team USPA is a USPA program designed to enhance and grow the sport of polo in the United States by identifying young, talented American players and providing mentored training and playing opportunities leading to a pool of higher-rated amateur and pro players and the resultant giveback to the sport of polo.

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