Flexjet Rallies For USPA National 20-Goal Tournament Title At Grand Champions Polo Club; Jared Sheldon Named MVP
Flexjet finished the 20-goal season undefeated with a thrilling come-from-behind 11-8 victory over Casablanca to capture the USPA National 20-Goal title Wednesday at windswept Grand Champions Polo Club.
The talented foursome of Melissa Ganzi, Jason Crowder, Nic Roldan and Jared Sheldon rallied in the final two chukkers, outscoring Casablanca’s equally-talented foursome of Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Julio Arellano and JJ Celis, 6-1.
Sheldon, one of the original members of Team USPA, was named Most Valuable Player. The scrappy athlete played well above his four-goal rating and played a big role in the team’s defensive second half and also scored four goals.
“It worked out well,” Sheldon said. “What a team. It’s such a fun team playing with Jason, Nic and Melissa. It’s so easy to play with them. We don’t say much, we know what the other is going to do. We played classic, open polo and enjoyed ourselves.”
Rebecca, a 10-year-old Chestnut mare ridden by Melissa Ganzi and owned by Santa Rita Polo Farm, was selected Best Playing Pony.
Casablanca frustrated penalty-plagued Flexjet in the first half for a 6-5 halftime lead and 7-5 advantage after the fourth chukker.
It was Melissa Ganzi who sparked Flexjet’s second-half rally.
“The goal Melissa scored broke the seal for us and from then on we took over,” Sheldon said. “Like Melissa says, it only matters in the second half.”
At the 5:34 mark, Ganzi, riding Rebecca, broke away from her defenders to score and cut Casablanca’s lead to one, 7-6.
After Roldan just missed an incredible angled neck shot, he then connected with Sheldon who scored, tying the game at 7-7 with 3:15 left in the chukker.
Casablanca briefly regained the lead in the closing seconds of the fifth chukker when Arellano converted a penalty-three for an 8-7 lead.
The sixth chukker was all Flexjet regaining its momentum and outscoring Casablanca, 4-0.
“Everything just fell into place,” Roldan said. “They played better than us in the first half but we kept fighting and fighting. We knew if we finished and scored some of the goals that we had been missing we would be there at the end and win.”
Roldan scored first at 5:33 lofting a penalty-three through the goal posts to tie the game at 8-8. A minute later, Sheldon got loose for a goal to regain the lead, 9-8. Roldan followed at 2:58 for an insurance goal and Sheldon picked up a loose ball to score one final time for a three-goal victory.
“Things just opened up and they finally started going in,” Sheldon said. “Once the pressure kind of mounted everyone got going. Nic did a great job getting the ball up in front.”
Roldan scored a game-high six goals, including three on penalty shots.
“For Flexjet this is great, they have been a great sponsor and huge supporter of polo,” Roldan said.
“Playing with this team was fun all season,” Roldan said. “We had a great chemistry, kept it simple and moved the ball as much as possible. It was a team effort in both tournaments all the way. It was a great season.”
Arellano led Casablanca with three goals, Ganzi had two and Celis added one. The team also picked up two goals on handicap.
Flexjet also won the USPA North American Cup last week with an 11-9 victory over Audi (Marc Ganzi, Jesse Bray, Carlucho Arellano, Jeff Blake) with Grant Ganzi filling in for his mother.
In last year’s USPA National 20-Goal final, Audi (Marc Ganzi, Jeff Blake, MVP Sugar Erskine and Carlucho Arellano) won with an 11-8 win over Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, Jason Crowder, Nic Roldan, Juan Bollini).