By Alex Webbe
Two sixth chukker penalty conversions from Tonkawa (Jeff Hildebrand, Teo Calle, Tincho Merlos and Jimmy Seward) 9-goaler Agustin “Tincho” Merlos went unanswered by Flexjet (Marc Ganzi, Tony Calle, Nic Roldan and Alex Gooding) as Tonkawa rallied for the hotly-contested 7-6 victory in the final of the 2016 Emma Challenge Cup at the Aspen Valley Polo Club Sunday afternoon.
Merlos opened the scoring with the first goal of the day for Tonkawa, 1-0. Marc Ganzi responded with a tying goal for Flexjet, 1-1. Jimmy Seward converted a 60-yard penalty shot and teammate Teo Calle added a goal from the field that had Tonkawa in the lead by two goals, 3-1. Nic Roldan closed out the scoring with a goal from the field but Tonkawa remained in the lead, 3-2.
Scoring was held in check for much of the second chukker but a Flexjet foul sent Tonkawa team captain Jeff Hildebrand to the penalty line where he scored from the 30-yard mark to make it 4-2. Flexjet’s Tony Calle countered with the only other goal of the period, cutting the Tonkawa lad back to a single goal, 4-3.
Both offenses were well-defended in the third frame with each team managing but a single goal. Seward’s second goal of the day extended the Tonkawa lead back to two goals again, 5-3, but Flexjet fired back. Alex Gooding scored the final goal of the first half, cutting the Tonkawa lead to a single goal, 5-4.
The pace quickened in the fourth but the defenses continued to be challenges on both ends of the field. Roldan scored the tying goal for Flexjet, 5-5, while the Tonkawa offense was shutout for the first time all day. After four periods of play the score was all even at 5-5.
Late in the fifth chukker a Tonkawa foul sent Ganzi to the penalty line. After missed an earlier opportunity from the 40-yard line, Ganzi split the goalposts from 30-yards out and gave Flexjet their first lead of the game. The Flexjet defense held Tonkawa scoreless for the second straight chukker and took a delicate 6-5 lead into the final period of play.
Tight checking and hard riding characterized the final chukker. Shots on goal by both sides went wide or were blocked until a Flexjet foul sent Merlos to the penalty line where he converted from 60-yards to tie the game at 6-6. Moments later another Flexjet foul returned Merlos to the 60-yard lien where he scored again, giving Tonkawa the 7-6 advantage. Flexjet tried to rally but the clock was on the side of Tonkawa. The final horn sounded giving the game and the Emma Challenge Cup to Tonkawa by a single goal.
Merlos led all scoring with three goals (two on penalty shots), including the tying and winning goals to win MVP honors. Seward scored once from the field and once on a penalty conversion. Teo Calle and Hildebrand added single goals for the win. Ganzi and Roldan scored two goals apiece for Flexjet. Gooding and Tony Calle each scored a goal in the loss.
Halo Polo’s Fendi was named Best Playing Pony. Fendi was played by Merlos.
Aspen Valley scores wins over Los Amigos and La Karina
Aspen Valley Polo (Ale Poma, Grant Ganzi, Julio Novillo Astrada and Juancito Bollini) recorded wins over La Karina (Paul Foster, Brian Boyd, Sebastian Merlos and Gabriel Gracida) and Los Amigos (Alejandra Foster, Carlitos Gracida, Lucas Lalor and Stewart Armstrong) to win the Emma Challenge Cup subsidiary later in the day.
La Karina took control of the opening three chukker mini-match against Los Amigos with first chukker goals from Brian Boyd and Paul Foster. Los Amigos were unable to score and fell behind, 2-0.
Foster opened the second period with a goal that extended the La Karina lead to three goals, 3-0. Goals from Alejandra Foster and Carlitos Gracida cut the La Karina lead back to a single goal, 3-2, with one chukker remaining to be played.
The momentum was with Los Amigos as they rode into the third and final period of play. A solid Los Amigos offense saw Alexandra Foster add two more goals to their total to give them their first lead of the game, 4-3, while an impotent La Karina offense floundered in the final minutes of play. At the end of the chukker it was Los Amigos with the win.
Aspen Valley 5, La Karina 3
La Karina held the field for the next three chukkers where they would face a fresh Aspen Valley Polo team in a must win situation.
Once again it was La Karina team captain Brian Boyd with the opening goal (a 30-yard penalty goal). Aspen Valley’s Ale Poma responded with a 30-yard penalty conversion of his own for the only other scoring in the chukker. The teams were all even at 1-1.
La Karina took the lead again behind a goal from Gabriel Gracida, 2-1, and stretched it to two goals on Boyd’s second goal of the match, 3-1. Juancito Bollini supplied the only goal of the chukker for Aspen Valley as they trailed 3-2 going into the third and final period.
Bollini’s second goal of the day tied the game at 3-3 as the La Karina offense struggled. Poma pushed Aspen Valley into the lead with his second goal of the game, 4-3. The La Karina offense was silenced for the balance of the contest as Aspen Valley rode off with the 5-3 victory.
Aspen Valley 4, Los Amigos 3
Both Aspen Valley and Los Amigos had 1-0 records entering the final three chukkers of the round-robin with the winner taking the Emma Challenge Cup subsidiary and both teams were determined to take home the silver.
Alejandra Foster got the ball rolling with the first goal of the final three periods, 1-0. Aspen Valley’s Grant Ganzi quickly turned things around with back to back goals. After the first period of play it was Aspen Valley with the 2-1 edge.
The defense stepped up for Los Amigos in the second chukker as they shut down the Aspen Valley attack. Single goals from Steward Armstrong and Alejandra Foster went unanswered and Los Amigos rode a 3-2 lead into the final period of the round-robin.
It was crunch time for Aspen Valley as the trailed by a single goal in the final minutes of play, and they were up to the challenge. A determined Aspen Valley defense held Los Amigos scoreless while Ganzi took advantage of a foul by Los Amigos to convert a 30-yard penalty shot that leveled the score at 3-3. Ganzi’s fourth goal of the match was all that was needed as Aspen Valley took the game and the round-robin with a 4-3 win.
Alejandra Foster scored five goals on the day and earned herself MVP honors.