WELLINGTON, FL – February 18, 2013 – Piaget saw its hopes of repeating as Ylvisaker Cup champions end in Sunday’s quarterfinals at Everglades Polo Club.
The defending champions, leading by two goals in the third and fourth chukkers and three goals in the fifth chukker, lost a heartbreaking 12-11 decision to Lucchese.
“The game could have gone either way but I felt we should have been ahead the whole game, too,” Piaget coach Joey Casey said.
Grand Champions Polo Club-based Piaget finished the tournament with a 2-2 record and is now preparing to switch gears for the 26-goal season that begins this week with the CV Whitney Cup.
Piaget, with 10-goalers Miguel Astrada and Sapo Caset, opens against Alegria on Friday at 10 a.m. at International Polo Club Palm Beach and will be among top contenders for the prestigious cup.
On Sunday, Piaget trailed 5-4 after two chukkers before Astrada took over. Piaget overtook the lead, 7-6, going into halftime on Astrada’s penalty-two goal. Astrada, scoring from all over the field on lofty 60-yarders and penalty shots.
Astrada led his team with seven goals, including four on penalty shots, and finished the Ylvisker Cup tournament among scoring leaders with 32 goals including 17 penalty shots.
Taking a pass from Juan Bollini, Piaget player-padrone Melissa Ganzi raced downfield with two big hits to score her team’s eighth goal for an 8-6 lead. After Lucchese cut the lead to one, Bollini scored on a back shot to return to a two-goal advantage, 9-7, to finish the fourth chukker.
Piaget’s momentum continued in the fifth chukker taking a 10-7 lead after Astrada took the throw-in and drove down the field for a goal. Lucchese started coming back behind Tincho Merlos, who scored two more goals before Astrada scored as time ran out to remain in the lead, 11-9.
Fouls and missed goal opportunities plagued Piaget early in the sixth chukker enabling Lucchese to find its rhythm and pressure Piaget for three unanswered goals.
Merlos’ penalty goal cut the lead to 11-10 and Andres Weisz’ shot in front of the goal tied the game at 11-11. Merlos scored the winning goal at the 3:15 mark.
Piaget had opportunities in the final two minutes of the game but couldn’t capitalize on a penalty goal opportunity or Bollini steal.
“We had a bad luck chukker,” Astrada said. “They had some fast horses and they made the difference in the last chukker. We played well, but not as well as in the other games. We were up on the scoreboard but not playing really well. They made it a very close game and didn’t allow us to run. It was a good 20-goal season anyway.”
Joaquin Panelo, Ganzi and Bollini each scored a goal. All three also played well defensively. Lucchese’s Tincho Merlos, replacing his older brother Sebastian in the lineup after being sidelined with broken ribs sustained in a polo game, scored a game-high ten goals.
“It was a really strange game,” Casey said. “We played well today. We had a couple bad breaks at the end.
“Everybody played well on the team,” Casey said. “It was just one of those days. We had a problem with our throw-ins and then we thought we got it fixed. Then at the end we didn’t.
“Bollini had a phenomenal game, he is playing incredible,” Casey said. “Joaquin played well today. Miguel was his usual 10-goal self and Melissa played very well.”
Both teams had to contend with dropping temperature and wind gusts late in the afternoon.
Melissa Ganzi will now root for husband Marc and Grand Champions Polo Club’s other pro team, Audi, which advanced into Wednesday’s Ylvisaker Cup semifinals with an impressive 14-9 victory over Villa del Lago.
Audi (3-1) will meet Lucchese, 12-11, winners over defending champion Piaget at 3 p.m. In the opening semifinal game at 1 p.m., Coca-Cola, 12-10 upset winners over Zacara, will play Lechuza Caracas, 10-7 winners over ERG.
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 SCHEDULE
Wednesday, February 20: Ylvisaker Semifinals, Coca-Cola vs. Lechuza Caracas, 1 p.m. and Audi vs. Lucchese, 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