Oct 31, 2022 1:31 PM
Article courtesy of Grand Champions Polo Club/Sharon Robb
On Friday, October 28, the North American Cup came to a thrilling conclusion at Grand Champions Polo Club in Wellington, Florida, with Santa Rita knocking two-time defending champion Casablanca off the podium to capture the prestigious title. Santa Rita led from start to finish for an assertive 12-9 victory over Casablanca.
In the semifinals, Santa Rita (Melissa Ganzi, Nic Roldan, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Juan Bollini) defeated Newport 13-11 to earn their spot in the final and Casablanca (Tomacho Pieres, Jason Crowder, Grant Ganzi*, Juan Sanchez Elia) edged NetJets 10-9 to advance to the title match.
Santa Rita prioritized teamwork and a strong defensive presence, building an early 6-0 lead thanks to firepower from Roldan’s two goals as well as Melissa Ganzi and Bollini’s goals to add to their team’s one-goal advantage on handicap. Santa Rita remained dominant throughout the second and third chukkers, with Melissa Ganzi and Bollini each adding a goal while holding Casablanca to just two goals - one from Pieres and one from Elia - to enter halftime with a comfortable 7-2 lead.
"We jumped out early and sort of controlled the game from then on," Roldan said. "That was obviously very important. I thought we had a good game, we played better than we did the other day. We know each other very well and we have a good system."
Re-energized after the break, an early field goal from Elia reignited Casablanca’s offensive front. Grant Ganzi followed with a successful penalty conversion to hold Santa Rita to just one goal from Roldan. Casablanca’s work to get back in the game came to fruition in the fifth chukker, with Crowder scoring twice and Grant Ganzi adding another to this time outscore Santa Rita by two goals. Containing Roldan to a singular goal, Santa Rita moving into the final chukker ahead 9-7.
In the sixth, Melissa Ganzi mobilized Santa Rita’s offense, scoring early to turn the tide back in her team’s favor. Roldan followed with a goal and Melissa Ganzi added another to her tally to keep momentum moving in Santa Rita’s direction. Casablanca’s Pieres made an attempt to get Casablanca back in the game with two goals, but the comeback effort came too late. As the final horn blared, Santa Rita led 12-9, claiming the triumphant victory and title over the defending champions.
Showing appreciation for his team’s focus on creating and sustaining a positive synergy, Bollini noted, "I don't think anyone tried to be the hero, I think the hero today was the team.” He continued, "Everyone did their job. We played well as a team. We made it simple. Today was a big team effort. They tried to get back in it in the second half, [but] they didn't have time to catch us."
Roldan, who scored a game-high five goals, was named Most Valuable Player. He shared, "It's a fun tournament to win [and] it’s one of the most important tournaments of the fall season. It was a fun, open game [and] there weren't a lot of fouls, which made it really enjoyable. The field was great, so it was a nice-looking game to play. For me, it's more important to be winning tournaments than getting MVP. It's just a bonus."
Little Nell, played by Grant Ganzi in the fifth chukker and owned by Santa Rita Polo Farm, was awarded Best Playing Pony honors.
Grand Champions Polo Club will continue their fall high-goal season with the 16- to 20-goal USPA-sanctioned National Twenty Goal beginning on Monday, November 7. All games of the tournament will be livestreamed by Chukker TV.
*Grant Ganzi is Team USPA alumni. 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.
Effective Date: Saturday, May 16, 2020
The suspension of USPA Tournaments and Events will be lifted for USPA Member Clubs in locales where hosting polo matches and tournaments is permitted under applicable state and local laws, executive orders and similar decrees. The USPA Member Clubs in these locales are encouraged to follow all such requirements of their state and local authorities with respect to polo operations. In addition, we also encourage all USPA Member Clubs to take the precautions recommended by the CDC. We are preparing a detailed list of best practices for USPA Member Clubs as they return to hosting USPA Tournaments and Events and plan to circulate these guidelines within the next week. We will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation closely and will notify you if we determine a different course of action is necessary.Read More