Goose Creek Captures Santa Rita Abierto 16-Goal Tournament Title; Vial, Brennan Named MVPs
In a seesaw battle for six chukkers, Goose Creek knocked off Casablanca, 14-12 to win the inaugural Santa Rita Abierto 16-Goal Tournament Saturday at Grand Champions at Palm Beach Polo Club.
With the game tied at 12-12 at the 1:40 mark in the final chukker, Cote Zegers lofted a penalty two shot through the goal posts to put Goose Creek ahead, 13-12, and Tano Vial scored on a penalty three to clinch the title.
Goose Creek (Maureen Brennan, Tommy Collingwood, Cote Zegers and Tano Vial) is enjoying one of its most successful seasons in low and medium goal polo. Goose Creek has won the 12-, 14- and 16-goal tournaments.
“I donâ€™t know what the betting line was on this game, but I knew we had a really good team,” Brennan said. “I was pretty confident that we could come here and win. All three of them were amazing. We got 150 percent from all of them today.
“We knew it wasnâ€™t going to be easy. We stuck to our plan. Every player played hard, we all said we were going to go kill it. I donâ€™t know who other people thought was going to win but for me personally I came to win and I felt 100 percent that we had the team for it.
“Casablanca is a very strong team,” Brennan said. “These are four real players and everyone is mounted. Look at the score. It was neck-and-neck, one-up, one-down or tied. Obviously, anyone could have won this game. We got lucky I guess at the end.”
Vial was named the gameâ€™s Most Valuable Player for his all-around play. Vial scored six goals, played well defensively and set up his Chile countryman Cote Zegers on several nice goal plays. Zegers finished with a team-high eight goals.
“This was a tough game,” Vial said. “We made a good plan to play and we followed the plan that we thought would win the game and it worked.
“The game could have gone either way,” Vial said. “They are a nice team, good team, good players. When you go goal by goal it can be anyone. We were lucky. I think we just played better.”
Brennan, one of the sportâ€™s top woman players, was named Most Valuable Amateur Player of the tournament.
“The best thing about this team is the vibe,” Collingwood said. “Everyone gets along so well. Itâ€™s easy to feed off these guys. Iâ€™ve never played with these guys before but hopefully I will again in the future.”
Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Nic Roldan, Fred Mannix), trailing until late in the fourth quarter, played well to work itself back into contention. With 21 seconds left in the fourth chukker, Roldan scored one of his team-high eight goals, to give Casablanca the lead (8-7) for the first time in the game.
The lead changed hands ten more times before Zegers scored to put his team back in the lead for good and Vial added an insurance goal with 38 seconds left.
“I am very happy for the team,” Zegers said. “It was close the whole game. I always have confidence in my team but I was scared. It could have gone to anyone. We ended up scoring more but the lead was turning all the time, we were up, they were up.
“It was not one of those games that you know you are going to win,” Zegers said. “I love playing with Tano, Maureen and Tommy. They are amazing. We matched up with them really nice. We were playing against some nice players. Tommy was amazing, never intimidated by anyone. Tano deserved the MVP.”
Collingwood, a Wellington High alum and young up-and-coming pro, escaped injury when his horse got tangled up with another horse and he tumbled to the field bruising his left shoulder.
“I am really happy with our performance and how I played against Nic and Fred, who is 6 goals here but 9 goals in Argentina,” Collingwood said. “Nic can hit the ball 150 yards. Juancito was amazing knocking the hell out of everybody and Grant is improving every day more and more.
“Our team today I think maybe we pulled it off in the end,” Collingwood said. “I almost had a heart attack there when they took away one of our goals on the challenge. Itâ€™s all part of polo. If the same play happened to us we would have asked for the challenge. I thought the referees were really good, the field played quite well and the footing was amazing.”
It was a game where instant replay and team challenges played a key role. Brennan, like many other player-patrons, said she is in favor of instant replay.
“I am for it,” she said. “We donâ€™t necessarily know all the rules yet or the protocol but it made sense after they explained it all and I understood it. I think itâ€™s a cool idea.”
Casablancaâ€™s Nic Roldan (3) drives the ball downfield for one of his eight goals. Photo by Scott Fisher
There were four team challenges executed during the game.
Goose Creek was the first to challenge an umpireâ€™s call with 5:34 left in the second chukker and won its challenge. A minute later, Casablanca used its first-half challenge and lost its team review. Casablanca used its second-half challenge with 3:03 left in the sixth chukker and won which resulted in Vialâ€™s goal being nullified. Casablanca challenged again with 38 seconds left in the game but lost the challenge.
PoloNow Network handled 70 instant replays and four challenges during the game, including a key challenge by Casablanca with 38 seconds remaining that was upheld allowing Vial to convert the final goal of the game.
Since Grand Champions Polo Club introduced instant replay and team challenges in January, the first club worldwide to introduce the state-of-the-art technology, there have been 25 challenges used by various teams during the Grand Champions at Palm Beach Polo season.
The tournament is named after Melissa Ganziâ€™s grandmother who passed away on Dec. 29, 2012.
For game recaps, news, features and photos of Grand Champions Polo Club-related events, go to www.grandchampionspoloclub.org.
Game video and live webcasts can also be seen at PoloNow Network at http://www.polonow.tv/.
2014 HIGH GOAL SEASON
MARCH 30-APRIL 20: 110th Maserati U.S. Open Polo Championships: TUESDAY: Flight Options vs. Coca Cola, 1 p.m.; Audi vs, Alegria, 3 p.m.; APRIL 6: Audi vs. Coca-Cola, noon; Alegria vs. Flight Options, 3 p.m.; APRIL 10: Audi vs. Flight Options 4 p.m.; APRIL 13: Quarterfinals; APRIL 16: Semifinals; APRIL 20: Hall of Fame Cup Final, U.S. Open final.
GRAND CHAMPIONS AT PALM BEACH POLO 2014 TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE (HOTLINE 561-373-0073)
MARCH: Madelon Bourdieu Memorial (5-goal); The Limited Edition 8-Goal Series; March 18-30, Santa Rita Abierto (16 goals); March 23-31, $50,000 National 12-Goal Tournament.
APRIL: 6-17, USPA The National Presidentâ€™s Cup, 16-17, Las Acacias (5-goal); Museum of Polo & Hall of Fame Challenge Cup (12-goal); John T. Oxley Memorial Trophy (16-goal).
THIS WEEKâ€™S SCHEDULE
SUNDAY: 8-goal Limited Edition Series Final, Far Niente vs. Hawk Hill at Cypress Field, 10 a.m.; 5-goal Madelon Bourdieu Memorial Final, Elegante at Patagones Azul, 10 a.m.; Handicap Final, Pony Express vs. Grand Champions.
GRAND CHAMPIONS POLO CLUB SCHEDULE (561-644-5050)
SATURDAYS: ProKidz Tournament, 2 p.m.
APRIL 4-5: Fifth annual Gay Polo League International Tournament
APRIL 8-12: Womenâ€™s Championship Tournament
GRAND CHAMPIONS AT PALM BEACH POLO 2014 SPRING SCHEDULE (561-644-5050)
APRIL 17-19: Grand Champions Cup
APRIL 24-27: The USPA Spring Challenge
MAY 1-4: The USPA Sun Cup
MAY 8-11: The USPA Eastern Challenge
MAY 15-18: The Polo Gear Challenge Cup
MAY 22-26: The Memorial
GRAND CHAMPIONS POLO CLUB
WHERE: 13444 Southfields Road, on the corner of South Shore Boulevard and Lake Worth Road, Wellington, 33414.