By: Rebecca Baldridge
Photos by: Nick Tininenko
ASPEN, CO, December 22, 2020— World Polo League bested Royal Salute in overtime to win the World Snow Polo Championship title by a score of 11-10
In what was perhaps the most exciting final in the history of the Aspen World Snow Polo Championship, World Polo League (Riley Ganzi, Hilario Figueras, and Alejandro Novillo Astrada) edged out Royal Salute (Sarah Siegel Magness, Jason Crowder and Jesse Bray) in an overtime shoot-out.
Chukker One got off to a blazing start with Jason Crowder scoring for Royal Salute out of the throw-in. With 3:35 to go, Hilario Figueras passed the ball to Alejandro Novillo Astrada to put the first goal on the board for WPL. Jason Crowder fouled Figueras in front ot the goal, resulting in a penalty one automatic goal for WPL, putting the score at 2-1 for WPL. As compensation for the foul, he scored on a pass from Jesse Bray, evening things up to end the chukker 2-2.
Chukker Two was off to another fast start, with two goals in the first 40 seconds, an impressive neck shot from Sarah Siegel Magness and a goal from Riley Ganzi, to tie the score at 3-3. With 1:49 left to play in the first half, Royal Salute found the goal to bring the score up to 3-4, while a penalty one by WPL took the score to 3-5. At the 30 second buzzer, Figueras scored, followed by a successful penalty two shot by Ganzi. With one second remaining and the score at 5-5, Crowder snuck in a final goal to end the half at 5-6 for Royal Salute.
Chukker three started with an unsuccessful penalty shot for WPL’s Ganzi, and with 3:11 to go in the chukker Crowder found the goal again, bringing the score to 5-7. WPL got lucky with another penalty one automatic goal. At 2:27, Hilario Figueras tied the match up at 7-7. He followed that goal up with a breakaway run, with Ganzi finishing to put WPL ahead by 8-7. With the clock ticking down, Jesse Bray made good use of the wall and scored to end the chukker at 8-all.
Chukker Three got off to a slower start, with both teams going back and forth. At 2:10, Jesse Bray edged the ball in from the right to bring the score to 9-8. With a minute of play remaining, Alejandro Novillo Astrada scored, tying the match up at 9 all. The chukker ended at 9 all, taking the match into overtime with a shoot out. Riley Ganzi took the first shot for WPL, taking the score to 10-9. Next up, Sarah Siegel Magness kept her cool under pressure, tying it up again at 10-10. Figueras took WPL to 11-10. Jesse Bray’s shot went just wide, as did WPL’s Novillo Astrada’s. Royal Salute’s Crowder missed his shot, and WPL won by 11-10.
The day’s second match for the runner-up title, the Aspen Cupt, pitted Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, and Toro Ruiz) against St Regis (Tom Barrack, Sugar Erskine, and Nacho FIgueras).
Toro Ruiz scored the first goal for Casablanca, and Juancito Bollini found the posts 30 seconds later to put another goal on the board. With 2:29 to go, Ruiz found the pass from Juancito Bollini and tapped the ball in. At 1:20, Grant Ganzi successfully evaded Tom Barrack to score, putting Casablanca up 4-0. With 58 seconds remaining, Figueras scored to end the chukker at 4-1. In Chukker Two, Figueras took a successful long shot to goal bringing the score to 4-2. The remaining four and a half minutes of play went back and forth, with neither team managing to score again.
Chukker Three began with Ruiz successfully converting on a pass from Ganzi, bringing the score to 5-2. At the four-minute mark, Figueras scored for St. Regis, with Sugar Erskine following up 30 second later, bringing St. Regis in striking distance at 5-4. With 33 seconds left to play, Ruiz scored again to end the chukker 6-4. In the final chukker, Toro Ruiz made a spectacular steal from Nacho Figueras and brought the score up to 7-4. Erskine answered with two consecutive goals, again putting St. Regis within striking distance at 7-6. At the 30 second bell, Grant Ganzi scored to end the match with an 8-6 victory for Casablanca.
Alejandro Novillo Astrada was named MVP, while Sarah Siegel Magness won the Best Shot of the Day. Most important though, was the tournament’s success in raising money for the Aspen Valley Hospital Foundation. President & CEO Deborah Breen was on hand to personally accept a $15,000 check for the AVHP and a $15,000 donation from Marc and Melissa Ganzi for the Calaway Young Cancer Center.
On Saturday, the Aspen World Snow Polo Championship kicked off with the High Alpine Cup. White Claw (Vinny Sangaline, Pablo Spinacci, and Horacio Heguy) took to the snow in Rio Grande Park to challenge Richard Mille (Alex Potamkin, Juan Bollini, and Nic Roldan).
Chukker One began with a bold run at goal by Vinny Sangaline, but Nic Roldan thwarted his attempt to score. The teams battled back and forth for over three minutes before Pablo Spinacci scored the first goal of the match at 2:16. Just before the whistle, Nic Roldan took the ball along the wall to end the chukker tied at 1-1. In the second chukker, play was back and forth until Sangaline brought the score up to 2-1 with 22 seconds left to play.
Richard Mille found their rhythm in the second half of the match. At 2:22, Alex Potamkin found the sweet spot after a scuffle in from of the goal, tying the game at 2-2. A minute later Roldan scored to put his team ahead 3-2. In the final chukker, Bollini scored despite being fouled by an attempt to steal the ball from behind. Nic Roldan made an impressive trip downfield keeping the ball in the air, but his final shot went just left of the goal. Spinacci got out in front to bring the score up to 3-4, but at 2:48 Roldan made a long shot to goal. Alex Potamkin scored the final goal of the match, with Richard Mille winning by 6-3.
Following the Alpine Cup, ChukkerTV announced Dale Schwetz presided over an auction to benefit the Aspen Vally Hospital Foundation. Gucci generously donated the auction items.
Next up, the Celebrity Chukker featured ChukkerTV (Gussie Busch, Juan Bollini, and Jacob Busch) against Aspen Valley Polo Club (Sterling Jones, Miss Saye Yabandeh, and Horacio Heguy).
Aspen Valley’s Sterling Jones scored the first goal, walking the ball in along the wall. Saye Yanbandeh made an impressive steal, snagging the ball from Juan Bollini, but lost control. Jacob Busch picked up the ball to score, tying things up at 1-1. With 1:41 to go, Saye found the goal, bringing the socre to 2-1. In the final five seconds, Jones scored to end the chukker 3-1 for Aspen Valley.