by U.S. Polo Correspondent Alex Webbe

After pounding the ball up and down the field for the better part of three hours and ending up in a 10-10 deadlock, the finals of the 2013 USPA Spring Challenge came down to a shoot-out between Audi (Grant Ganzi, Marc Ganzi, Nic Roldan and Lucas Lalor) and Piaget (Martin Estrada, Brandon Phillips, Juan Bollini and Gene Goldstein), with Audi riding off the field with the 11-10 victory.

Audi received one goal by handicap from Piaget and quickly ran the score up to 2-0 on a goal from Lucas Lalor in the opening 25 seconds of play. Marc Ganzi attempted a penalty shot that was going wide. Lalor blocked the errant shot and redirected it through the Piaget goalposts for a goal. Piaget responded with a goal from Gene Goldstein at the 3:51 mark, 2-1. Nic Roldan closed out the scoring in the opening chukker with a goal in the final 57 seconds of the period for a 3-1 advantage. No goals were scored in the first six minutes of the second chukker as both defenses clamped down. Brandon Phillips cut into the Audi lead with a goal from the field to make it 3-2. Roldan preserved the two goal lead by scoring a goal with seven seconds left on the clock. At the end of the second chukker Audi held on to a 4-2 lead. Martin Estrada and Phillips (penalty conversion) added single goals in the third with Lalor answering back with a goal for Audi. At the end of the first half, Audi led by a single goal, 5-4.

Fourth chukker action saw Juan Bollini open the second half with a tying goal from the field, 5-5. Two minutes later Estrada added another goal to give Piaget their first lead of the game, 6-5. Roldan scored the final goal of the chukker, knotting it up at 6-6. Audi opened up the fifth period with a roar as Roldan took the ball over 150 yards down the field for a goal, 7-6. Grant Ganzi took a pass from his father, Marc Ganzi, a minute later and drove it through the goalposts for a score and an 8-6 Audi edge with one chukker left in regulation time. Lalor flew down the field with the ball in the opening seconds of the sixth chukker and executed a flawless neck shot just yards from the end line that split the goalposts for a goal, 9-7. Piaget added goals from Phillips and Bollini to knot it up at 9-9, followed by another spectacular goal from Lalor that put Audi back in the lead, 10-9. A goal by Bollini with 47 seconds left in the game tied it up once again, 10-10, and forced an overtime shootout.

Audi’s Grant Ganzi took the opening 40-yard shot in the shootout that went wide. Piaget’s Gene Goldstein’s following effort also missed the mark, 0-0. Roldan converted for Audi followed by an attempt by Martin Estrada that hit the goalpost and failed to score, 1-0. Lalor made good on his 40-yard shot, 2-0. Phillips kept Piaget’s hopes alive when he converted his shot, 2-1, but all hopes were abandoned when Marc Ganzi converted his shot to give Audi a 3-1 lead, with no opportunity for Piaget to come back. Roldan and Lalor led the Audi attack with four goals apiece. Grant Ganzi scored once and the team received one goal by handicap. Bollini scored four times for Piaget and earned MVP honors for himself. Phillips added three gals; Estrada was credited with two and Goldstein scored once in the loss. Halo Polo’s brown mare Rhapsodia, played by Gene Goldstein, was named Best Playing Pony.

PONY EXPRESS WINS ROUND-ROBIN
Earlier in the afternoon, Pony Express (Bob Daniels, Justin Daniels, Tomas Goti and Pancho Eddy) needed to rely on net goals to capture top honors in the consolation round of the USPA Spring Challenge Cup with each of the three teams ending with 1-1 records in the three-chukker mini-bouts. Palm House (Glen Straub, Carlitos Gracida, J. J. Celis and Tommy Biddle) opened the round-robin by scoring a 6-5 win over ELG (Avery Chapman, Juancito Bollini, Carlucho Arellano and Kris Kampsen) in a game that saw Glen Straub, Carlucho Arellano and Tommy Biddle score two goals apiece. Carlucho Arellano led ELG with three goals, Kris Kampsen scored twice.

ELG bounced back in the ensuing three chukkers as they faced Pony Express. Pony Express received one goal by handicap and managed only a single goal from Tomas Goti in the team’s 3-2 loss. ELG’s Juancito Bollini scored twice with Kampsen adding a goal in the win. Pony Express scored a 5-3 win over Palm House in the closing three chukkers of play with Pancho Eddy scoring twice and Bob Daniels and Tomas Goti chipping in single goals. Pony Express received one goal by handicap. J. J. Celis scored twice for Palm House. Glen Straub added a goal and was named MVP for his efforts.