By Arianna Delin, Sharon Robb for Grand Champions Polo Club
Aspen Valley Polo Club won the Santa Rita Abierto 16-Goal Tournament on Easter Sunday with a thrilling 13-12 overtime victory Equuelus at Equuleus Polo Club.
It may have taken two days to complete because of heavy rain and overtime, but it was worth the wait for the “family” team victory.
Winning teammates father and son Juan and Juancito Bollini, Grant Ganzi and Nic Roldan have grown up playing polo together and the chemistry shows.
But Equuleus (Hugo Tagliafero, Magoo Laprida, Mariano Gonzalez, Joe DiMenna) made them work for it when the game resumed in the third chukker on Sunday.
Roldan was named Most Valuable Player. It was the second consecutive game the 8-goaler won in overtime. He also clinched FlexJet’s victory in overtime over Alegria Assist Card to keep FlexJet’s hopes alive in the U.S. Open.
Roldan finished with a game-high ten goals for Aspen Valley Polo Club.
“It’s like every game has been by one goal or overtime,” Roldan said. “They are a hell of a team. We knew it was going to be tough. It was an important game. Mariano and Magoo were all over the place.”
On the opening day of the game in windy and overcast weather, Equuleus jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead taking advantage of Aspen Valley Polo Club penalties with back-to-back goals from Gonzalez.
Aspen Valley Polo Club regained its composure behind Roldan’s two penalty goals from 30- and 40-yards out and Juancito Bollini’s goal from the field for a 3-2 lead at the end of the first chukker.
Aspen Valley continued its momentum in the second chukker to lead 6-3 before the rains came and postponed the final until Sunday.
The game resumed with Aspen Valley Polo Club taking a 7-5 halftime lead and pulled away for an 8-6 lead in the fourth chukker and 9-6 in the fifth chukker.
The momentum started to sway in the fifth chukker with Equuleus reeling Aspen Valley Polo Club in with Laprida’s goal giving Equuleus a 10-9 lead before a Roldan penalty shot tied the game at 10-10 to end the chukker.
Aspen Valley Polo Club was awarded a penalty one goal early in the sixth chukker for an 11-10 lead. Magoo’s quick breakaway score tied the game at 11-11 with 1:35 left. Roldan converted a penalty six for a 12-11 advantage but Laprida’s penalty-two conversion with 30 seconds left tied the game at 12 to send it into overtime.
“We started off winning and we finished winning,” Juancito Bollini said.
After Roldan defended a big hit from Gonzalez, Equuleus fouled sending Roldan to the penalty line for the winning goal.
“We were a bit slow and let them back in the game,” Roldan said. “We didn’t convert on the goals we needed to but in the end we got lucky and pulled it off.”
For Roldan, playing with his teammates is always fun, he said. They have played in several tournament in Grand Champions and Aspen Valley Polo Clubs as well as International Polo Club.
“It’s family,” Roldan said. “It’s fun to see the kids growing up and improving. It’s always fun to play with Mr. Juan Bollini and the kids are on a roll.
“Winning is good. It’s good for the confidence. It’s good for team. All in all it’s a great day and it’s been a great day for all of us.”
Ganzi, 16, a junior at St. Andrew’s School, is enjoying his best season in polo, highlighted by the $50,000 National 12-Goal title.
“Overtime is crazy, ridiculous, it happens all the time,” Ganzi said. “I played with both Juans my whole life and Nic, of course. It’s a fun time, we have been playing together for a long time.
“We got caught sleeping a little late in the game and were slow,” Ganzi said. “It was a 100-percent nice win the way we came back and won in overtime.”
Bollini, a sophomore at Florida Atlantic University, also enjoys playing with family and friends.
“It does and it doesn’t help playing with them most of my life,” Bollini Jr. said. “Having a family member on the team is a bit harder, there’s more pressure. We just wanted to get the game over with because we had to wait a week for these four chukkers…five now.
“Coming back like we did because of the rain delay is always tough on the horses. They haven’t played for a week so they are not in their best physical shape. That was my biggest challenge.”
Juancito Bollini and Ganzi each added a goal. For Equuleus, Gonzalez led scoring with six goals including two on penalty shots. Laprida added four goals and Tagliaferro had one goal.
Bionica, an 8-year-old dark bay mare owned and played by Gonzalez in the sixth chukker, was named Best Playing Pony.
2015 POLO ON DEMAND
Grand Champions Polo Club, featuring five world-class fields, has a full schedule of tournaments from January to May. Let our polo experts create a turn-key experience including top pros to bring out the best in you and your team. Lessons are available.
WINTER 2015 SCHEDULE
16-GOAL TOURNAMENTS: John T. Oxley Memorial Trophy.
12-GOAL TOURNAMENT: Museum of Polo & Hall of Fame Challenge Cup
8-GOAL TOURNAMENTS: USPA President’s Cup
6-GOAL TOURNAMENTS: Las Acacias Cup
SPRING 2015 SCHEDULE
April 16-19, Grand Champions Cup; April 23-26, USPA Spring Challenge; April 30-May 3, USPA Sun Cup; May 7-10, USPA Eastern Challenge; May 14-17, Polo Gear Challenge Cup; May 21-25, The Memorial; May 24-25, USPA NYTS; May 28-31, Santa Rita Memorial.