Wellington, FL - Grand Champions defeated 7chukkerpolo.com 11-3 in the George Oliver Memorial at the International Polo Club Palm Beach (IPC) on Friday. Most Valuable Player was Lucas Diaz Alberdi, and the Nelly R. Loeb Sportsmanship award was given to Juancito Bollini. Best Playing Pony went to Prada, owned by Halo Polo and ridden by Wesley Finlayson.
Grand Champions 7chukkerpolo.com
Grant Ganzi Jack McLean
Juancito Bollini Lorenzo Merlotti
Lucas Diaz Alberdi Matias Gonzalez
Wesley Finlayson Santi Torres
From start to finish, the young players in the George Oliver Memorial showed an understanding of the game of polo that belied their age. Grand Champions took off to an early lead with back-to-back penalty conversions by Wesley Finlayson. Both teams made big runs on goal, battling to keep control of the ball, with the score 2-0 at the end of the first chukker. Santi Torres rocketed out of the throw-in, streaking toward goal with his teammates backing him up. Torres left it in the goalmouth for Matias Gonzalez to tap in and cut Grand Champions' lead in half. Torres and Gonzalez teamed up again on the next play to tie the game 2-all. Lucas Diaz Alberdi made an excellent belly shot for Finlayson to drive in, making the score 3-2 at the end of the half.
Juancito Bollini converted to pull away from 7chukkerpolo.com 4-2 and then cemented the Grand Champions lead by converting a safety. Finlayson continued his streak from the penalty line and drove another goal in for Grand Champions. Bollini racked up back-to-back penalty conversions to end the third chukker 8-2.
Alberdi accelerated into a breakaway to drive a pass upfield for Grant Ganzi to shoot in for a goal. More fast-paced play ensued as both teams jockeyed for possession. Bollini walked up and drove in a penalty conversion to take his team to double digits and make the score 10-2 in favor of Grand Champions. Gonzalez took the ball out of the air on his way to goal, showing his speed and ball-handling skills simultaneously before taking his shot and making the score 10-3. Alberdi promptly responded with another goal of his own, driving in the final goal of the game.
For Juancito Bollini, the tournament was a great opportunity to have fun and reconnect with friends. "It was my first time in a long time playing with Lucas. He came from Argentina to play this tournament, and it was a lot of fun," said Bollini.
Grant Ganzi felt that teamwork is what made Grand Champions such a force to be reckoned with on the field. "I thought we had a really good team execution of the plan. We all worked for each other really hard," he said.
The 111th U.S. Open Polo Championship Final takes place at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 19, on Engel & Völkers field at IPC.
International Polo Club Palm Beach Fast Facts:
Created by players for players, the International Polo Club Palm Beach was born out of the dream to build a facility to showcase the incredible skills of the ponies and players that dominate the sport.
Members and guests enjoy panoramic views of the action from field side box seats or lawn and terrace seating. Sponsors and fans convene at The Winners Circle to congratulate the players during the awards presentation following the games.
Gourmet brunches, après polo celebrations and the prerequisite charitable events will take place in The Pavilion. Designed to accommodate large parties, corporate clients, as well as family and friends.
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Joe Barry Memorial Cup - 20 Goal
Jan. 4 - 25, 2015
Ylvisaker Cup - 20 Goal
Jan. 28 - February 22, 2015
Iglehart Cup - 20 Goal
Feb. 28 - March 8, 2015
USPA C.V. Whitney Cup - 26 Goal
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Piaget USPA Gold Cup® - 26 Goal
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111th U.S. Open Polo Championship® - 26 Goal
March 25 - April 19, 2015