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SANTA RITA SNAGS NORTH AMERICAN CUP OVER DEFENDING CHAMPIONS CASABLANCA

Oct 31, 2022 1:31 PM

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2022 North American Cup Champions: Santa Rita - Juan Bollini, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Melissa Ganzi, Nic Roldan. ©David Lominska
2022 North American Cup Champions: Santa Rita - Juan Bollini, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Melissa Ganzi, Nic Roldan. ©David Lominska

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's Alejandro Novillo Astrada prepares for a booming shot down field ahead of Casablanca's Jason Crowder. ©David Lominska
Santa Rita's Alejandro Novillo Astrada prepares for a booming shot down field ahead of Casablanca's Jason Crowder. ©David Lominska

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.

Casablanca's Grant Ganzi and Santa Rita's Juan Bollini vie for position. ©Candace Ferreira
Casablanca's Grant Ganzi and Santa Rita's Juan Bollini vie for position. ©Candace Ferreira

"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."

Casablanca's Tomacho Pieres on a breakaway. ©David Lominska
Casablanca's Tomacho Pieres on a breakaway. ©David Lominska

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.

Casablanca's Jason Crowder reaches for the hook on Santa Rita's Juan Bollini. ©Candace Ferreira
Casablanca's Jason Crowder reaches for the hook on Santa Rita's Juan Bollini. ©Candace Ferreira

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."

Most Valuable Player Nic Roldan, presented by Executive Director of Museum of Polo & Hall of Fame George Dupont. ©David Lominska
Most Valuable Player Nic Roldan, presented by Executive Director of Museum of Polo & Hall of Fame George Dupont. ©David Lominska

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.

Best Playing Pony Little Nell, played by Grant Ganzi, owned by Santa Rita Polo Farm and pictured with Roque Rodriguez. ©David Lominska
Best Playing Pony Little Nell, played by Grant Ganzi, owned by Santa Rita Polo Farm and pictured with Roque Rodriguez. ©David Lominska

*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.

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