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CASABLANCA JOINS TONKAWA IN THE SILVER CUP® FINAL THIS SUNDAY AT MCCLURE RIVER RANCH

Aug 08, 2019 11:45 AM

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Story Courtesy of Aspen Valley Polo Club/Sharon Robb.

10-goalers Hilario Ulloa and Sapo Caset thunder down the field.
10-goalers Hilario Ulloa and Sapo Caset thunder down the field.

In what is expected to be one of the most competitive championship finals, undefeated Tonkawa (4-0) will take on Casablanca (3-1) this Sunday, August 11, in the Silver Cup® Final at the Aspen Valley Polo Club in Carbondale, Colorado.

In front of a lively local crowd, including 10-goaler Adolfo Cambiaso, and the USPA Polo Network worldwide audience, Wednesday's semifinals at McClure River Ranch lived up to expectations.

Tonkawa, the only undefeated team remaining in the six-team tournament, advanced into the final with a 14-11 victory over Flexjet in the first semifinal, featuring 10-goalers Sapo Caset and Hilario Ulloa on opposing teams.

Flexjet's Hilario Ulloa and Tonkawa's Juan Martin Obregon watch as the ball flies towards goal.
Flexjet's Hilario Ulloa and Tonkawa's Juan Martin Obregon watch as the ball flies towards goal.

Tonkawa (Santos Merlos, Juan Martin Obregon, Sapo Caset, Mason Wroe*) began to distance themselves after the third chukker, creating a 7-3 lead over Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, Gussie Busch, Hilario Ulloa, Alejandro Novillo Astrada). 13-year-old Santos Merlos substituted for Jeff Hildebrand, nursing a slight injury sustained in his team's final bracket game against McClure River Ranch.

Due in part to Caset's deft play, Tonkawa continued to pull away for a 10-5 lead in the fourth chukker. Flexjet outscored Tonkawa 8-7 in the second half, but were unable to make up the deficit. Demonstrating his skill, Astrada scored a Penalty 5 conversion from midfield for a 150-yard goal as the clock ran out.

In an exhilarating finish in the second semifinal, Casablanca rallied for a narrow 9-8 victory over Audi in sudden death overtime after trailing for most of the game.

Casablanca (Grant Ganzi*, Juancito Bollini, Lucas Lalor, Nacho Novillo Astrada), avenged their first loss to Audi (Marc Ganzi, Hilario Figueras, Nic Roldan, Jared Zenni) 11-6 in the previous bracket game with a remarkable comeback.

Casablanca's Nacho Novillo Astrada prepares for his shot.
Casablanca's Nacho Novillo Astrada prepares for his shot.

Jumping into the lead early on, Audi secured a five-goal advantage to end the second chukker 6-1. After their slow start, Casablanca started to reel Audi in, scoring five unanswered goals in the fourth to tie the score 6-all when Bollini converted a 60-yard penalty.

Audi reclaimed the lead in the fifth chukker with Roldan's goal and Zenni's goal with 2:21 remaining for an 8-6 lead. Bringing Casablanca within one, Astrada closed the gap to 8-7 in the final minute of the chukker.

Bollini's Penalty 2 conversion with 2:55 left in regulation tied the game at 8-all. Another missed scoring opportunity by Casablanca sent the game into overtime. In the seventh chukker, Bollini won the bowl-in and took a shot at goal, Lalor recovering the ball and scoring an amazing open backshot at the 7:10 mark to clinch the win 9-8.

"It's not that we don't give up, it's more like we take too long to get organized," Bollini said reflecting on the game. "We don't start the way we want to and that makes us lose the beginning chukkers. It's something we are trying to fix. We need to come out stronger for the finals," Bollini continued. "We can't let them go ahead like we've done in our past games."

Casablanca's Lucas Lalor trails behind Audi's Hilario Figueras.
Casablanca's Lucas Lalor trails behind Audi's Hilario Figueras.

Hopeful to conquer the dominating team, Juancito Bollini would be proud to have his name inscribed on the elegant Silver Cup®. "It's not the biggest tournament for me, but this cup definitely has some sentimental value," Bollini revealed. "Not only because it's one of the oldest cups in North America but because it's the first year that it's being played in Aspen."

"I think the game was great," commented Carlucho Arellano, USPA Executive Director of Services. "Audi came out firing on all cylinders and took a nice lead. They were flying. They looked like they were a couple of gears faster than anybody else. Nacho and his team just kept chipping away. They were not going to go away and they definitely showed everybody they are not a team willing to fold."

The final between Tonkawa and Casablanca will take place on Sunday, August 11 at 1:00pm ET. The USPA Polo Network will livestream the game on uspolo.org, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Casablanca Nacho Novillo Astrada and Juan Bollini Sr. celebrate their semifinal win.
Casablanca Nacho Novillo Astrada and Juan Bollini Sr. celebrate their semifinal win.

*Jared Zenni and Grant Ganzi are members of Team USPA. Mason Wroe is a Team USPA alumnus. 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.

All photos courtesy of ©Candace Ferreira/Aspen Valley Polo Club.

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