by U.S. Polo Correspondent Alex Webbe

The Grand Champions Polo Club in Wellington ended their spring season in grand fashion, with three 12-goal matches, a catered lunch and a glamorous and well-orchestrated awards ceremony for the many players and spectators on hand. The highlight of the day was the finals of the 2013 Piaget Memorial Day Polo Cup in which Longfield (Hannah Buchan, Marc Ganzi, Nic Roldan and Carlitos Gracida) scored an 11-10 sudden-death overtime win in the tournament finals at the expense of a competitive YP.com foursome (Melissa Ganzi, David Krantz, Mike Azzaro and Juan Bollini).

Juan Bollini got YP.com on the scoreboard with a goal in the opening 12 seconds of the game for a 1-0 lead, but that would prove to be the only goal of the chukker. Aggressive defenses on both sides eliminated any further scoring as players were ridden-off plays and shots on goal were turned aside time after time.

Mike Azzaro made it 2-0 for YP.com in the first 30 seconds of the second period and added another at the 2:35 mark for a 3-0 YP.com lead. Nic Roldan took the ensuing throw-in and raced 150 yards down the field to answer for Longfield, 3-1. Azzaro’s third goal of the chukker came with 25 seconds left to play, and YP.com rode off the field with a comfortable 4-1 advantage.

The pace picked up in the third chukker with Marc Ganzi adding a pair of goals from the field in the first two minutes of play to cut the YP.com lead to a single goal, 4-3. Azzaro responded with a single goal for YP.com, 5-3, and Melissa Ganzi scored her first goal of the game to extend the lead to three goals, 6-3. Nic Roldan closed out the scoring in the first half by converting a 60-yard penalty shot. At the end of three chukkers of play, YP.com was on top, 6-4.

Goals were hard to come by in the second half, with Carlitos Gracida scoring from the field for Longfield at the 4:51 mark. Azzaro scored on a penalty shot for YP.com as they held on to their two goals lead, 7-5, with two chukkers left in regulation time. Fifth chukker goals from Roldan and Marc Ganzi (penalty conversion) tied it up at 7-7 with 4:10 left in the period. Melissa Ganzi scored with two minutes left in the chukker, and Azzaro added his sixth to put YP.com ahead 9-7. Marc Ganzi kept Longfield in the hunt with another penalty goal with 11 seconds on the clock. After five chukkers of play, YP.com led by a single goal, 9-8.

Scoring was swift in the sixth chukker, with Bollini extending the YP.com lead to two goals, 10-8, in the opening thirty seconds of play, but Longfield was far from done. Roldan charged around the field like a man on a mission, converting a penalty goal at the 5:36 mark to cut the lead to a single goal, and then ting it up at 10-10 with nearly five minutes left in regulation time. Each side had a couple of scoring opportunities that were wasted, and the final horn sounded with the score deadlocked at 10-10. After a brief recess, both teams returned to the field for the sudden-death overtime. Defenders on both sides were prepared to make every effort to defend their respective goals, but after a couple of unsuccessful efforts, Marc Ganzi broke free and drove the ball through the YP.com goal posts for the win, less than three minutes into the overtime.

Mike Azzaro was recognized for his game leading six goals by being named MVP. Teammates Melissa Ganzi and Bollini scored two goals apiece in the loss. Roldan and Marc Ganzi each scored five goals. Gracida added a goal from the field in the victory. Halo Polo’s Yeti (ridden by Marc Ganzi) received Best Playing Pony Honors.

ELG WINS CASABLANCA CUP, 11-10
In earlier action, a balanced ELG (Juancito Bollini, Martin Estrada, Kris Kampsen and Avery Chapman) attack scored an 11-10 win over Palm House (Glen Straub, Carlos Diaz, Tommy Biddle and Joey Casey) to capture the Casablanca Cup in spite of a seven goal production by Tommy Biddle.

Carlos Diaz got Palm House on the scoreboard with a goal from the field just two-and-a-half minutes into the game. Kris Kampsen answered with a penalty conversion for ELG to end the chukker in a 1-1 tie. A Palm House miscue left the ball in front of an undefended goal, and Diaz jumped on it for his second goal of the game and a 2-1 Palm House lead. Biddle made it 3-1 on a 60-yard penalty conversion. ELG team captain Avery Chapman kept ELG in the game with a penalty goal of his own. At the end of the second chukker of play, Palm House was on top, 3-2. Kampsen tied it up at 3-3 in the opening minute of the third chukker, and a goal from Juancito Bollini had ELG in the lead for the first time at 4-3. Chapman and Bollini added additional goals for a 6-3 edge before Palm House could score. A penalty goal from Biddle in the final 45 seconds of the first half cut the ELG lead to two goals, 6-4.

ELG’s Martin Estrada jumped all over the opening throw-in of the second half and raced down the field for a score, 7-4. Biddle converted a 30-yard penalty shot for a goal for Palm House, 7-5. Chapman’s third goal of the game cape with 40 seconds on the clock and gave ELG an 8-5 three goal lead at the end of the fourth. A well-placed pass from Biddle found a streaking Glen Straub who stroked the ball through the goalposts, 8-6. Consecutive penalty conversions from Biddle at 5:11 and 1:32 had it all even at 8-8, but Kampsen put ELG back in the lead with a penalty goal with 44 seconds left in the chukker, 9-8.
Biddle tied it up again for Palm House in the opening minutes of the sixth chukker on a penalty conversion, 9-9 and then drove the ball through the goal posts from over 80-yards out to edge ELG, 10-9 with three-and-a-half minutes left in the game. Estrada tied it up again at 10-10 with his second goal of the game at the 2:29 mark. An unfortunate penalty on Palm House sent Chapman to the penalty line with 34 seconds left to play. He scored the winning goal on the penalty shot and ELG celebrated the 11-10 victory.

INTER-CONTINENTAL 11, AUDI 9
Inter-Continental (Alejandro Poma, Brandon Phillips, Carlucho Arellano and Gene Goldstein) rallied with four last chukker goals (three from Carlucho Arellano) to ride past Audi (Grant Ganzi, Leo Mandelbaum, Lucas Lalor and J. J. Celis) 11-9, in the consolation round of the Piaget Memorial Day Polo Cup in a Sunday morning contest. Audi’s Leo Mandelbaum scored the first goal of the game, but Inter-Continental’s Carlucho Arellano and Alejandro Poma responded with single goals for Inter-Continental, 2-1.

The two teams exchanged goals in the second period with Arellano scoring for Inter-Continental and J. J. Celis answering with a goal for Audi. Inter-Continental continued to lead, 3-2. Two Inter-Continental goals went unanswered in the third with Alejandro Poma converting a penalty shot and Gene Goldstein scoring from the field. At the end of the first half, Inter-Continental led by three goals, 5-2.
Poma opened the second half with a goal from the field in the opening 30 seconds of play, and teammate Brandon Phillips scored on a 60-yard penalty shot for a commanding 7-2 lead. That was when Audi came alive. Three consecutive goals from Celis (two on penalty shots) closed out the chukker with Inter-Continental in front, 7-5. A rejuvenated Audi took the field in the fifth with a renewed sense of purpose. Three minutes into the chukker, Mandelbaum scored a goal to cut the Inter-Continental lead to a single goal, 7-6. A minute later Celis tied it up with his fifth goal of the game. Mandelbaum scored a goal from the field in the final 58 seconds of the period to put Audi in front, 8-7.

Phillips tied it up in the opening minute of the sixth chukker, 8-8, and three consecutive goals from Arellano had Inter-Continental firmly in the lead, 11-8, with 2:17 left in the game. Lucas Lalor scored the final goal of the game for Audi as they watched Inter-Continental celebrate the 11-9 victory. Arellano set the pace for Inter-Continental with five goals. Poma added three goals; Phillips scored twice and Goldstein added a goal for the win. Celis was high-scorer for Audi with five goals. Mandelbaum added three goals and Lalor scored once in a losing effort.