Story Courtesy of Grand Champions Polo Club/Sharon Robb.
Audi and Sebucan advanced into the championship final of the National Twenty Goal®, Saturday, November 23, at Grand Champions Polo Club (Grand Champions) in Wellington, Florida.
On a perfect day for polo, Sebucan (Pablo Pulido 2, Jason Crowder 6, Kris Kampsen 6, Tommy Biddle 5) progressed to the final with a thrilling 11-10 victory over Aspen Valley (Grant Ganzi 3, Juancito Bollini 4, Horacio Heguy 6, Jeff Blake 6) in the opening semifinal game in front of the local crowd and worldwide USPA Polo Network audience.
“It’s always great to be in a final,” Kampsen said.
It will be Sebucan’s second 20-goal final appearance in club history
“It’s fun to be in the final,” said Pulido, a Cornell alum. “It was a good game. The field, the horses and my teammates were great, so I can’t complain. It was fun to play with these guys. They kept on talking to me and making sure I was in the game. It was a beautiful day.”
In the second semifinal, Audi (Marc Ganzi 2, Sugar Erskine 6, Nic Roldan 8, Brandon Phillips 4) advanced with a 14-10 win over France (Louis Jarrige 3T, Julien Reynes 4T, Edouard Pan 4T, Pierre Henri Ngoumou 6T).
The final is set for Wednesday, November 27 at 3:00pm ET and will be livesteamed on the USPA Polo Network.
SEBUCAN DEFEATS ASPEN VALLEY IN FIRST SEMIFINAL
Sebucan’s Kris Kampsen races to the ball at full speed as Aspen Valley’s Horacio Heguy hustles to defend.
In the opening game, Sebucan dominated the throw-ins and took control early leading 2-1 and 3-1 to take a 5-2 lead after two chukkers. Aspen Valley outscored Sebucan, 3-2, behind two goals by Blake and penalty conversion by Ganzi to trail 7-5 at the half.
“The first half went down much better, the second half was messy,” Pulido said. “We just kept on rotating. Sometimes Tommy and Kris went offensive and Jason and I defensive. It worked well. The first half we were quicker to the ball and it was much more open. The second half they kept hanging onto the ball.”
Sebucan led 9-5 early in the fourth chukker before Aspen Valley started reeling them in and shut them out in the fifth chukker 3-0. Aspen Valley scored four unanswered goals, including three by Ganzi, to tie the game at 9-9 in the fifth chukker.
Sebucan regained its momentum with 3:37 left in the final chukker when Crowder hit an incredible nearside backshot for a 10-9 lead. Aspen Valley missed a scoring opportunity a minute later. Biddle scored with an out-of-the-saddle neck shot for an 11-9 lead and then had a great defensive save with a backshot on a potential goal run.
“The team played great,” Crowder said. “There was great communication out there. We were talking the whole time. We were one cohesive unit and that’s how you play polo. It was really fun to play with these guys. Tommy, Kris and Pablo, they were awesome. Now we’re in the final.”
Bollini cut the lead to one with a goal with 36 seconds left. Aspen Valley won the final throw-in but ran out of time.
“That team is never going to give up,” Crowder said. “I have played with every one of those guys except Horacio. They are all fighters and I don’t need to have played with him to know that he is an animal. I knew they were going to come back, but we held strong.”
“The key in that last chukker was to keep our heads in the game, not lose our cool, try to play well, not make mistakes and not foul,” Kampsen said.
Kampsen scored a game-high four goals. Pulido and Crowder each had three goals and Biddle added one goal, which ended up being the game-winner.
“They played really well but just had bad luck today,” Kampsen said. “Some of their penalties didn’t go in, a few of their breakaways didn’t hit. I thought that was a very good team on paper. Horacio is a legend in polo. Jeff Blake is a great player, it’s always a battle to play against him. Juancito and Grant have been playing really well, too. We had a really good game. We were very confident. I felt like we had good position. We talked a lot between each other and it made a huge difference,” Kampsen continued.
Kampsen is enjoying one of his best years in polo with three 20-goal wins during the winter season, two 26-goal World Polo League finals appearances and now three fall tournament wins.
Ganzi led Aspen Valley with a game-high five goals. Bollini had three goals and Blake added two goals.
AUDI OVERTAKES VISITING FRENCH TEAM 14-10 IN SECOND SEMIFINAL
Audi’s Nic Roldan prepares for a nearside with a French Team member closing in for the bump.
France, a 17-goal team, started off with 3-0 lead in the opening chukker but it didn’t take long for Audi to tie the game. Audi scored three consecutive goals to open the second chukker. France recieved its first goal from the field when Pan scored to trail 6-4 after the second chukker. France missed two goal scoring opportunities in the third but still trailed by only two at the half 8-6. France came within one goal twice, 8-7 in the fourth and 9-8 in the fifth, before Audi pulled away for a 13-8 lead early in the sixth chukker.
“We came out strong but had a poor third and fourth chukker,” Roldan said. “Their system in the beginning wasn’t working for them and we capitalized on that. They obviously figured it out and improved a lot. It was a tough game, but we have a fun team. All four players scored some great goals. It was a good game for us to get our confidence going for Sebucan, which obviously is going to be a very tough team to play against. Sebucan has a lot of experience and knowledge. The four of them seem to jell. It’s going to be tough.”
Roldan scored a game-high six goals, Phillips had two and Erskine added one goal.
For France, Jarrige led a team-high three goals, Pan had two and Reynes and Ngoumou each added one goal. The team also picked up three goals on handicap.
The National Twenty Goal® was first played at the Royal Palm Polo Club in Boca Raton, Florida, in 2007. Won by Houston-based team BTA (Chrys Beal, Mariano Gonzalez, Francisco Lanusse, Santiago Trotz) in a narrow victory over Audi 13-12, the trophy then went on hiatus until 2011. Grand Champions Polo Club resurrected the tournament, and it has been played there ever since.
The tournament has consistently fielded four to six competitive teams over the past seven years. Audi has dominated the competition with three total wins, including back-to-back victories in 2012 and 2013 with an identical team (Carlos Gracida Jr., Nic Roldan, Carlos Gracida). With four titles to his name, Nic Roldan holds the record for most National Twenty Goal® tournament wins.
In addition to Casablanca, past winners of the USPA National Twenty Goal® Tournament include BTA, KIG, Audi, Flight Options and Flexjet.
Grand Champions Polo Club and Santa Rita Polo Farm cater to men, women and youth polo players at all levels. The expert staff can customize a complete playing experience including horses, pros and certified umpires, in addition to lessons and practice sessions as part of the Polo On Demand program at the turnkey facility. For more information, please contact Juan Bollini at 561-346-1099.
All photos courtesy of ©Grand Champions Polo Club.