By Arianna Delin, Sharon Robb for Grand Champions Polo Club
Redemption was sweet for Audi-Millarville in its’ second game of the Joe Barry Memorial Cup Thursday at International Polo Club Palm Beach.
In front of a worldwide ChukkerTV audience and packed local crowd, Audi-Millarville bounced back from a tough season-opening loss with an 11-9 victory over defending champion Orchard Hill.
Audi-Millarville looked like a different team with padron Grant Ganzi, Julian Mannix, Nic Roldan and Freddie Mannix playing as a cohesive unit from start to finish.
Audi-Millarville kept Orchard Hill’s Steve Van Andel, Peke Gonzalez, Polito Pieres and Lucas Criado off-balance throughout the game.
After losing to Dubai, 12-9, in its first game of the season after several rain delays, Audi-Millarville improved to 1-1 and is right back in contention in the 10-team tournament.
“Basically, we had to win,” Freddie Mannix said. “We didn’t play well the first game. It puts you in a whole different light for the next game because you know you can do it. Any time you are with a new team it’s never easy to get the little intricacies of the game and jell together.
“We had a few good team meetings for this game. We watched quite a few videos on this team. It just goes back to being well-prepared, concentrating and knowing exactly what we wanted to do.
“We were lucky to get a few good practices in so the horses played a lot better and we played a lot better. We hit the ball better. We were sharper and crisper. It was a whole effort on getting prepared to win today.”
After a day’s rest, Audi-Millarville will play winless Valiente (0-2) on Saturday at 11 a.m.
Audi-Millarville’s total team effort produced balanced scoring. Roldan, America’s top-rated player at eight goals, led with five goals including two penalty shots. Freddie Mannix had three, Julian Mannix scored two and Ganzi added one.
“We knew we had potential,” Roldan said. “We just needed to come out with a little more fierce intensity and we did. Today was a team effort by everyone. Grant played the best game of his life, Julian was so solid up front helping out the team. Freddie was solid and I just picked up the slack for everyone else which was very little. It was fun playing with these guys.
“We were soft the first game,” Roldan said. “We weren’t ready after having only two practices and it showed. Today was fun to win like that. We know we have a lot of potential and now we are back in it.”
For Orchard Hill, Pieres had a team-high five goals including one from the penalty line. Criado and 14-year-old Gonzalez each had two goals.
“They were a good team, but we are a good team, too,” Roldan said. “We knew we were a good team. It was just a matter of putting all the pieces together. Everyone stepped it up big-time.”
Playing aggressively from the opening throw-in, Audi-Millarville jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the first chukker.
Orchard Hill cut Audi-Millarville’s lead to one goal in the second and third chukkers, but Audi-Millarville never lost its composure.
Audi-Millarville shut out Orchard Hill in the fifth chukker and held Pieres scoreless in the fourth and fifth chukkers. Freddie Mannix came up with a goal-saving stop of a Pieres goal attempt in the final minute.
“We had a good plan for Pieres and Nic did a good job with him in the lineup,” Freddie Mannix said. “He is a magician, we all know that. Nic’s defense today was extraordinary. Polito only scored two goals from the lineup, that tells me the team was doing its job. Today we made a big step forward.”
Ganzi, at 17 the youngest patron competing in the 20-goal season at IPC, played well above his 1-goal rating. The St. Andrew’s senior came up with big offensive plays, played well defensively and was not intimidated by 9-goaler Pieres, rated 10 goals in Argentina.
“Huge, huge, huge difference between this game and our first,” Ganzi said. “I was more disciplined today and concentrating. Julian helped me out a lot. He is a great teammate.
“We had a really good game plan and stuck with it and it worked,” Ganzi said. “We kept going at it. I was floating. I was everywhere. That’s what they needed me to do. My team played well. This game was huge. We needed this game as a team and I did, too.”
Julian Mannix, a Florida Atlantic University alum, turned in one of his finest career games breaking loose for two goals while stalling several Orchard Hill attempts. Julian and his older brother, competing in 20-goal polo for the first time in their careers, made for a strong one-two punch.
“We are just happy to get a win, it’s always fun to win and extra nice to beat Polito,” Julian Mannix said. “Now we have a chance. Now we just have to focus on the next one.
“Our first game was tough, we didn’t have a lot of rhythm together. Today we were more aggressive and ready to play.”
Audi has a rich tradition in polo. The German automobile manufacturer designs, engineers, produces, markets and distributes luxury automobiles throughout the world including West Palm Beach. Audi, founded in 1909, oversees its worldwide operations from its headquarters in Ingolstadt, Bavaria, Germany.
Millarville is the creation of a polo brand that offers first-quality polo products for all players and horses, emphasizing the passion for the sport at all levels. Millarville offers a variety of products from leathers to high tech sport items.
ChukkerTV, leaders in polo broadcasting, is exclusively live streaming International Polo Club Palm Beach and Grand Champions Polo Club games during the 2016 season with polo broadcasters Toby Wayman and Dale Schwetz calling the action.