by U.S. Polo Correspondent Alex Webbe

Piaget (Melissa Ganzi, Moritz Gädeke, Brandon Phillips and Juan Bollini) took the early lead and held a 4-3 halftime edge before Audi (Grant Ganzi, Marc Ganzi, Lucas Lalor and Mike Azzaro) staged a second half rally that gave them the game in a narrow 8-7 win in the finals of the 2013 USPA Eastern Challenge at the Grand Champions Polo Club in Wellington Sunday morning.

Brandon converted a Safety for a goal in the opening minutes of play followed by a goal from Piaget team captain Melissa Ganzi for a 2-0 first chukker lead. A miserly Piaget defense kept Audi off of the scoreboard in the initial seven minutes of play. Audi’s Grant Ganzi scored the first goal of the game for Audi on a penalty conversion in the opening minute of the second chukker, 2-1. Phillips responded with a goal from the field at the 5:08 mark, 3-1. Ensuing goals from Mike Azzaro and Marc Ganzi closed out the chukker in a 3-3 deadlock. Both defenses clamped down in the third, with Germany’s Moritz Gädeke scoring the only goal of the chukker with 1:11 left on the clock. At the end of the first half of play, Piaget guarded a narrow 4-3 advantage over a pressing Audi foursome.

Lucas Lalor opened the second half of play with a goal from the field in the opening thirty seconds of play for a 4-4 tie. It wasn’t until the three minute mark that Gädeke scored to give the lead back to Piaget, 5-4. Mike Azzaro came alive in the final two minutes of the period, and scored two goals to give Audi their first lead of the game, 6-5. Melissa Ganzi opened the fifth chukker with her second goal of the game at 7:11, but a goal from Lalor returned the lead to Audi. After five periods of play, Audi held a paper thin 7-6 lead.

Scoring was hard to come by in the final chukker of the game. Phillips finally managed to break through the Audi defense for his third goal of the game and a 7-7 tie. With neither team able to score through the next three minutes it looked like it was it was going into sudden death overtime until Lalor broke free and carried the ball through the Piaget goal posts for the 8-7 win with must four seconds on the clock.

Lalor and Azzaro scored three goals apiece. Marc and Grant Ganzi each scored a goal in the win. Phillips led the Piaget attack with three goals. Melissa Ganzi and Gädeke added two goals apiece with Moritz Gädeke being named MVP for his efforts.

ELG/PALM HOUSE TAKES ROUND-ROBIN
ELG/Palm House scored consecutive wins over Longfield (4-3) and Pony Express (8-5) to take top honors in the consolation round of play in the 2013 USPA Eastern Challenge Sunday afternoon at Wellington’s Grand Champions Polo Club. Pony Express and Longfield rode to a 4-4 tie in the opening three chukkers of the three team round-robin as neither team was able to establish dominance in the mini-match.

Pony Express received one goal by handicap and added to it on a pair of goals from fourteen-year-old Justin Daniels (one on a penalty shot) and a single goal from 4-goaler, Pancho Eddy. Longfield got a pair of goals from the field from veteran Martin Estrada and single goals from Joey Casey and J. J. Celis for the 4-4 finish.

Longfield stayed on the field to meet ELG/Palm House, and after a scoreless opening chukker took a 2-1 lead on goals from J. J. Celis and Joey Casey. A goal from ELG/Palm House’s Carlucho Arellano kept them from getting shut out for the second consecutive chukker, but Longfield held the lead, 2-1. Celis scored again in the third period to put Longfield on top, 3-1 when ELG/Palm House stormed back. Tommy Biddle and Avery Chapman scored single goals from the field while Arellano converted a penalty shot for the 4-3 victory.

A Pony Express lineup that saw thirteen-year-old Benji Daniels replace brother Justin in the second chukker of play saw Justin Daniels replace his father, Bob, in the third. Benji was his in the elbow with a ball at the end of the chukker and retired for the day, but the chemistry was lost as ELG/Palm House steamrolled them8-5 for the win.

Glen Straub led the field with five goals in the final three chukkers and was named MVP. Tommy Biddle scored twice (once on a penalty shot) and Carlucho Arellano added a single goal in the victory. Justin Daniels converted a pair of penalty shots fr goals and Tomas Goti added a single goal from the field in the loss.