WELLINGTON, FL – February 9, 2013 – Defending champion Piaget, playing well on both ends of the field, remains in contention to defend its title in the Ylvisaker Cup.
Playing one of its best games of the high goal season on Saturday, Piaget knocked off Orchard Hill, 11-10, at International Polo Club Palm Beach to advance into Friday’s quarterfinals.
Behind a total team effort, stingy defense and scoring heroics of 10-goaler Miguel Astrada, Piaget never trailed from the opening chukker.
Piaget remained in control for most of the game, leading by as many as four goals in the fifth chukker (11-7) and held on in the final 57 seconds with a tremendous defensive effort against Argentine Open MVP Mariano Aguerre and Matias Magrini.
With the win, Grand Champions Polo Club-based Piaget (2-1) remains in contention in the 14-team tournament. Orchard Hill, this year’s Joe Barry Memorial Cup champion, dropped to 1-2 and will play in the George Haas Subsidiary quarterfinals on Thursday.
Astrada played a masterful game, scoring a game-high nine goals including six on penalty shots. He leads Ylvisaker Cup scorers with 25 goals overall including 13 penalty shots.
For Orchard Hill, Magrini had five goals, three on penalty shots. Aguerre added three goals.
“The key was last Sunday we won and we got the confidence back,” Astrada said. “It changed everything. I had time to make the plays. Being calm comes with experience and the years of polo I play.”
Piaget player-patron Melissa Ganzi played her role well defending and breaking up plays.
“It was a really close, tight game,” Ganzi said. “We wanted to keep the ball moving forward as much as possible. Juan (Bollini) did a good job of taking Matias out of the game and that gave Miguel a lot of time.
“I am really happy,” Ganzi said. “Today was a must-win situation to remain in the tournament. We always want to win. It’s nice to be clicking during this long tournament so that we have a chance to possibly win it. It’s exciting to still be in it.”
Piaget was coming off a 10-8 victory over Goose Creek in the Sunday stadium game.
“Today we had a game plan and it worked really well,” Astrada said. “We wanted to contain Magrini and Aguerre. The key was Juan played very well and put a lot of pressure on those players and that gave me an extra second. Melissa did a very good job defending and stretching the team out.”
Veteran Juan Bollini played a key role in shutting down Aguerre and Magrini in key situations while giving Astrada time to get into scoring position time and time again.
“We have been talking about this game for a week and I knew I had to play my best because the team depended on me,” said Bollini, who played above his 5-goal rating. “Miguel was pushing me to concentrate and focus. When we have a good defense, the offense is always going to come out.
“Miguel kept telling me to be patient,” Bollini said. “Last year no one believed in us and we won this tournament. We have a good team. The other teams will respect us more now. This was our best game of the season so far and we qualified.
“I am 50 years old; just for me to be on the field, I am thrilled,” Bollini said. “Working with Melissa for 13 years, we started with two horses. For me this is a dream and blessing.”
Eighteen-year-old Argentine Joaquin Panelo played his best game of the season coming up with key steals and passes and was not intimidated by two of the game’s greats.
“It is an amazing feeling to play against these players,” said Panelo, making his U.S. 20-goal debut. “To take a win is great in the tournament. It’s my first season and every game I get better. I think this is my best game and that helps my confidence.”
Panelo, a 4-goaler, said having Bollini, his cousin, guiding him on the field is an advantage.
“I don’t mind him yelling; it’s good for me to learn everything,” Panelo said. “It is my first experience here in 20-goal. We played a lot of man today and took them one-on-one. To play against such a good player like Mariano with his experience and fast horses is really complicated.
“We knew it would be a tough game but we knew we could do it; our team is solid and very good,” Panelo said.
Piaget coach Joey Casey, with the help of player and assistant coach Juan Badiola as an extra set of eyes from the sideline and players’ tent, came up with the perfect game plan.
“It was a good day for Piaget; everything went well for us,” Casey said. “It’s important for this kind of chemistry to be developing. We didn’t play together before the first tournament; nobody knew each other. Now the team is coming together and playing better. Everybody is doing their job.
“Bollini played his best game today,” Casey said. “He played incredible going at Magrini on the knock-ins. Miguel took over the game and made some phenomenal plays and some incredible goals. Joaquin played extremely well, hit the ball well and made some smart plays. Melissa played phenomenal. She was running up and down the field, making plays.”
In a departure from its usual pre-game ritual, most of the Piaget team went to the Andrea Bocelli concert Friday night at the BB&T Center in Sunrise. “We have been going every year around this time; it’s an annual tradition,” Ganzi said. “So we were relaxed coming into the game.”
A draw will be held Tuesday to determine Piaget’s quarterfinal opponent.
In other Saturday games, Goose Creek defeated Port Mayaca, 12-8, and Zacara edged Coca-Cola, 9-8.
Grand Champions Polo Club-based Audi (1-1) plays Sunday against undefeated Lechuza Caracas (2-0) at noon on IPC’s Field 2.
The prestigious tournament is named after visionary business leader and lifelong polo enthusiast Bill Ylvisaker.
Ylvisaker, a former captain of the Yale polo team, founded the Palm Beach Polo and Country Club. He founded the Polo Training Foundation to teach and develop young polo players. He was a 7-goal rated player and won three U.S. Opens, two Coronation Cups against England and Australia, Gold Cup and four national 20-goal championships. He was chairman of the U.S. Polo Association (1970-75) and inducted into the Polo Hall of Fame in 1994. Ylvisaker died February 6, 2010 at age 85.
YLVISAKER CUP AUDI/PIAGET SCHEDULE
Sunday, February 10: Lechuza Caracas vs. Audi, noon
Thursday, February 14: Subsidiary Quarterfinals
Friday, February 15: Four quarterfinals games, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Saturday, February 16: Outback 40-Goal Challenge (with three players from Audi/Piaget: Miguel Astrada, Sapo Caset and Gonzalito Pieres), 3 p.m.
Sunday, February 17: CV Whitney 26-goal games, TBA
Wednesday, February 20: Ylvisaker Semifinals, 1 and 3 p.m.
Thursday, February 21: Haas Cup Semifinals subsidiary, 1 and 3 p.m.
Sunday, February 24: Haas Cup final, noon; Ylvisaker Cup Final, 3 p.m.
AUDI/PIAGET TOURNAMENT LINEUP
Jan. 31 – Feb. 24, Ylvisaker Cup
Feb. 20 – March 3, Iglehart Cup
Feb. 20 – March 3, CV Whitney Cup
March 5 – March 24, USPA Piaget Gold Cup
March 26 – April 21, 109th Maserati U.S. Open Polo Championship
GRAND CHAMPIONS POLO CLUB
WHERE: On the corner of South Shore Boulevard and Lake Worth Road, Wellington.
INFORMATION: There are great field side views for tournament action at the home base of pro teams Audi and Piaget. Everyone is welcome to watch polo during the spring and fall tournament season and other special events including the Buzz Welker Memorial Junior Tournament, Women’s Championship Tournament and Gay Polo League Tournament.
Sharon Robb for Phelps Media Group, Inc. International