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NYTS QUALIFIERS SHOWCASE YOUNG TALENT AT ASPEN VALLEY AND SOUTH BAY POLO CLUBS

Jul 18, 2017 2:41 PM

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The National Youth Tournament Series (NYTS) Program was created to cultivate and promote junior polo throughout the United States by providing the organizational structure to support junior polo clinics, tournaments and international competition. The program will utilize Regional Polo Center instructors, experienced Team USPA members, and other qualified instructors as mentors and clinicians.

The NYTS National Championship for the Cecil Smith Cup and the East vs. West Challenge will be played Labor Day weekend at the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club in Carpinteria, California. For more information, please contact NYTS@uspolo.org.

There are still several qualifiers remaining:

July 19, 2017 - Southampton Polo Club in Water Mill, New York.
July 22, 2017 - Blackberry Polo Club in Batavia, Illinois.
July 22, 2017 - Nashville Polo Club in Franklin, Tennessee.
July 23, 2017 - Seneca Polo Club in Poolesville, Maryland.
July 29-30, 2017 - Jackson Hole Polo Club in Jackson, Wyoming.
July 29-30, - Folly Farm in Simsbury, Connecticut.
July 30, 2017 - Big Horn Polo Club in Big Horn, Wyoming.
July 30, 2017 - Will Rogers Polo Club in Pacific Palisades, California.
July 29-30, 2017 - Twin City Polo Club in Maple Plain, Minnesota.
August 5-6, 2017 - Farmington Polo Club in Farmington, Connecticut.

Aspen Valley Polo Club NYTS Qualifier

Eight talented players all smiles after the USPA NYTS qualifier. © ChukkerTV.
Eight talented players all smiles after the USPA NYTS qualifier. ©ChukkerTV.

Courtesy of Aspen Valley Polo Club

If Aspen Valley Polo Club's USPA National Youth Tournament Series qualifier is any indication, the future of polo will be in good hands. With a few famous polo-playing fathers including former 10-goaler Mike Azzaro, Nacho Novillo Astrada and Juan Bollini watching and coaching at times, eight talented players competed for the opportunity to play in the season-ending national championship.

Sopris Mountain Ranch (Santos Novillo Astrada, Johnny Kirton, Santos Bollini, Grant Ganzi) defeated Aspen Valley Polo Club (Hunter Azzaro, Nikko Ramirez, Christian Weisz, Harrison Azzaro), 3-1, in a fast-paced, physical battle at Sopris Field at Aspen Valley Polo in Carbondale, Colorado.

Former 10-goaler Mike Azzaro coaching sons Harrison and Hunter between chukkers.
Former 10-goaler Mike Azzaro coaching sons Harrison and Hunter between chukkers. ©ChukkerTV.

It was the first time the Azzaro brothers competed together in the four-chukker game. It was also the final appearance of Ganzi, a two-time national champion, who will age out of the competition.

Players from as far away as Hawaii (Johnny Kirton) competed in the NYTS event in hopes of qualifying for an all-star talent pool for the Sept 1-4 National Championship at Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club in Carpinteria, California.

The NYTS qualifier season began in March and continues through August 7. All-Stars are selected by a committee at each qualifier based on horsemanship, sportsmanship, playing ability at their handicap and ability to play with a team. This year, a new second level East vs. West Challenge will be held during the NYTS Championship weekend for players rated 0 goals and below.

Argentine player Nacho Novillo Astrada helps his son Santos with his horse.
Argentine player Nacho Novillo Astrada helps his son Santos with his horse. ©ChukkerTV.

"It's such a great idea to help improve the sport and let kids play more," Santos Bollini said. "It's not about the winning, it's learning how to be respectful on the field and how to play with others."

Named to the All-Star team were four players whose fathers and mother compete at a high level. Weisz, the son of top player Andres Weisz; Harrison Azzaro, the son of Mike Azzaro, ranked at 10 goals for 13 years; Santos Bollini, the son of former 8-goaler Juan Bollini and Ganzi, the son of Marc and Melissa Ganzi, both top amateur players and major tournament winners including the U.S. Open.

After a scoreless opening chukker, the game picked up with some outstanding plays on both offense and defense. Santos Novillo Astrada gave Sopris Mountain Ranch a 1-0 lead after converting a Penalty 2 in the second chukker.

Aspen Valley Polo Club had its share of scoring opportunities on good runs but was unable to finish. Ganzi converted a Penalty 3 for a 2-0 lead in the third chukker and Bollini added a goal from the field to make it 3-0 before Weisz got Aspen Valley Polo Club on the scoreboard before the game ended.

All-Star selections Christian Weisz, Harrison Azzaro, Santos Bollini and Grant Ganzi with awards presenter Marc Ganzi.
All-Star selections Christian Weisz, Harrison Azzaro, Santos Bollini and Grant Ganzi with awards presenter Marc Ganzi. ©ChukkerTV.

Harrison Azzaro, at 17, with his big, booming 100-yard plus hits and aggressive defensive play, resembled his father in the early years. Bollini turned back three scoring attempts and goal runs. Nikko Ramirez showed off his horsemanship leaning out of his saddle to ride off Bollini's goal run. Weisz also stopped two goal runs by Sopris Mountain Ranch. All eight players competed above their handicaps, ranging from B to two.

"You could tell after the game today everybody had a blast," Bollini said. "The game ended 3-1, but still everyone had fun." Added Weisz, "It was really a good game. My team was really good. We all did what we said and went with our man but sadly our shots weren't falling."

The top-caliber horses were provided by Wellington, Florida, based Santa Rita Polo Farm and Aspen Valley Polo Club. The nation's fastest growing polo club is coming off its most successful summer season in club history. The club, enjoying an increased membership, continues to grow and introduce polo throughout the valley.

South Bay Polo Club NYTS Qualifier

South Bay Polo Club NYTS participants (L to R) Ajay Moturi, Anya Moturi, Justine Efcavitch, Petra Teixeira, Taylor Olcott, Mia Sweeney, Sara Espy, Emilie Sanche.
South Bay Polo Club NYTS participants (L to R) Ajay Moturi, Anya Moturi, Justine Efcavitch, Petra Teixeira, Taylor Olcott, Mia Sweeney, Sara Espy, Emilie Sanche. Pictured with Team USPA alum Mason Wroe.

San Luis Obispo: Petra Teixeira, Ajay Moturi, Justine Efcavitch, Taylor Olcott

South Bay: Mia Sweeney, Sara Espy, Anya Moturi, Emilie Sanche

Result: San Luis Obsipo def. South Bay 7-0

All Stars: Taylor Olcott, Petra Teixeira, Justine Efcavitch, Mia Sweeney

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