CARBONDALE, Colo., September 13, 2022—-NetJets won its second tournament of the season Saturday at McClure River Ranch.
By Sharon Robb
In the season finale, NetJets (Marc Ganzi, Brian Boyd, Nic Roldan, Jason Crowder) held on for a thrilling 9-8 win over Victory (Kevin Schmeits, Sugar Erskine, Grant Ganzi, Pancho Bensadon) to win the Ute Challenge at McClure River Ranch.
Jason Crowder, playing his first summer season in Aspen, was named Most Valuable Player. Crowder won six tournaments during the summer including the coveted Triple Crown of Polo-Aspen.
“It’s great to get an MVP award,” Crowder said. “It shows all your work paid off and all the horses are playing well. It goes to the whole barn. It lifts the whole barn up, all their hard work paid off.
“It was a great season, very fun. The horses played very well. I had never been to Aspen before in the summer. It was a new experience. It was awesome. I loved the outdoors. Every day it was either hiking, mountain climbing, kayaking or paddle boarding. This place is easy to be healthy and do your best. It was very stress-free.”
Moon Quartz, a 10-year-old played by Grant Ganzi and owned by Santa Rita Polo Farm, was selected Best Playing Pony.
After trailing 1-0 after the first chukker, NetJets outscored Victory, 4-1, in the second chukker with three goals from Marc Ganzi to lead 4-2 at the end of the second chukker.
NetJets turned on its defense in the third chukker to shut out Victory and take a 5-2 halftime lead.
Victory started to reel NetJets in outscoring them 6-4 in the second half but ran out of time with Grant Ganzi converting a 30-yard penalty with 21 seconds left in the game.
“It was a fun game,” Crowder said. “Marc dominated out front, scored lots of goals and pulled the team. Brian Boyd was firing on all cyclinders running to goal. It’s always fun to play with Nic launching the passes up.
“It just really clicked today. Marc and I had a real nice connection at the beginning of the game. The first four passes we hit to each other and he scored goals off of. It started off nice. We kind of lulled there in the middle but got to bring it home at the end.”
Marc Ganzi scored a team-high four goals, Crowder had three and Boyd added one. For Victory, Grant Ganzi had a game-high five goals and Erskine added three.
In the opening Becky’s Birthday Bash game, Victory (Lauren Sherry, Becky Schmeits, Melissa Ganzi, Nic Roldan) defeated Mountain Chevrolet (Vinny Sangaline, Pablo Spinacci, Fran Spinacci, Michael Payne), 9-4.
Schmeits, celebrating her 50th birthday with family, friends and polo, scored a game-high five goals. Ganzi had three goals and Roldan added one. Sangaline and Fran Spinacci each had two goals for Mountain Chevrolet.
After a 2-2 tie in the opening chukker, Victory pulled away in the last three chukkers, including a 3-1 fourth and final chukker.
Aspen Valley Polo Club finished its most successful and historic season in club and Rocky Mountain Circuit history with a record 13 tournaments. Polo returns to Aspen in December with the St. Regis World Snow Polo Championship.
“Everything was so much fun,” Crowder said. “Everybody was such a good vibe at the club. Everybody got along so well. All the sponsors and players are friends, on and off the field. Even if you’re playing against somebody you are cracking jokes with them at halftime.”
Aspen Valley Polo Club opened its ninth and most successful season on July 3.
“This club has a lot of potential,” Crowder said. “It’s amazing. It’s a great place to come during the summer, improve your polo and get a lot better. We played some really good players, Gonzalito Pieres, Pancho Bensadon and other high goal players. It definitely helps playing against the best. The more people that know about it, the more will be coming. I’m sold on it.”
Los Amigos won three tournaments and Brookshire and NetJets each won two tournaments. Los Amigos won the season-opening Independence Cup, High Alpine Cup and Triple Crown of Polo-Aspen making the Texas-based team the winningest team this season.
In the season-opener Los Amigos (Paul Foster, Marc Ganzi, Gonzalito Pieres, Tomacho Pieres) won the Independence Cup with a round robin victory over Casablanca (Alejandra Foster, Grant Ganzi, Torito Ruiz, Nic Roldan) and NetJets (Melissa Ganzi, Nacho Figueras, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Juan Bollini). Los Amigos (Paul Foster, Marc Ganzi, Gonzalito Pieres, Nacho Figueras) also won the High Alpine Cup with a 6-4 win over Tonkawa (Jeff Hildebrand, Brian Boyd, Nacho Novillo Astrada/Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Jason Crowder). Pieres was MVP. Its biggest victory was the Triple Crown of Polo-Aspen where Los Amigos (Paul Foster, Jason Crowder, Grant Ganzi, Nic Roldan) defeated defending champion Tonkawa (Jeff Hildebrand, Marc Ganzi, Tomacho Pieres, Juan Martin Nero), 5-4.
Brookshire (Scott Wood, Jason Crowder, Nic Roldan, Juan Bollini) won its club debut in the ChukkerTV Cup with an 11-7 win over Los Amigos (Paul Foster, Vinny Sangaline, Gonzalito Pieres, Nacho Figueras). Brookshire (Scott Wood, Ale Poma, Nacho Figueras, Torito Ruiz) won its second tournament in the Basalt Handicap with a 12-7 win over Mountain Chevrolet (Michael Payne, Stewart Armstrong, Nic Roldan, Alex Gooding).
McClure River Ranch (Marc Ganzi, Jason Crowder, Pancho Bensadon, Stewart Armstrong) won the Craig Sakin Memorial with a 9-8 victory over Santa Rita (Melissa Ganzi, Vinny Sangaline, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Juan Bollini).
Tonkawa (Jeff Hildebrand, Nic Roldan, Grant Ganzi, Blas Bensadon) won the Emma Challenge with an 11-8 victory over defending champion Los Amigos (Paul Foster, Vinny Sangaline, Nacho Figueras, Tomacho Pieres). Roldan earned his second MVP award of the season.
La Karina (Lauren Sherry, Brian Boyd, Torito Ruiz, Tomacho Pieres) won the Mount Sopris Cup with a 9-8 victory over NetJets (Melissa Ganzi, Vinny Sangaline, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Juan Bollini). Ruiz was MVP.
NetJets (Melissa Ganzi, Jason Crowder, Nic Roldan, Juan Bollini) won the NetJets Rocky Mountain Open with a 7-6 overtime win over Tonkawa (Jeff Hildebrand, Marc Ganzi, Tomacho Pieres, Gonzalito Pieres). Roldan earned his third MVP title of the season.
In the Maroon Bells Cup, Victory (Kevin Schmeits, Vinny Sangaline, Torito Ruiz, Nacho Novillo Astrada) defeated Santa Rita (Melissa Ganzi, Alejandra Foster, Gonzalito Pieres, Alejandro Novillo Astrada), 20-19.
Los Amigos (Paul Foster, Jason Crowder, Grant Ganzi, Nic Roldan) defeated defending champion Tonkawa (Jeff Hildebrand, Marc Ganzi, Tomacho Pieres, Juan Martin Nero), 5-4, to win the coveted Triple Crown of Polo-Aspen. Grant Ganzi was MVP.
Victory (Vinny Sangaline, Kevin Schmeits, Torito Ruiz, Pancho Bensadon) defeated Los Amigos (Paul Foster, Nic Roldan, Marc Ganzi, Tomacho Pieres), 11-9, to capture the second annual Silver Queen Invitational. Ruiz was MVP.
Wellington, Fla.-based ChukkerTV live streamed the entire 2022 polo season Mountain Standard Time with announcer Dale Schwetz calling the action.
Since Marc and Melissa Ganzi resurrected the club and polo in 2014, polo has increased in popularity in Aspen and surrounding cities with the club’s offerings of various weekly grass and arena tournaments, Arena & Asado Nights, Kidz Polo, Kidz Wheely Polo, Gymkhana, the Polo School headed by former 8-goaler Juan Bollini, and Polo On Demand. In addition, the club offers practice sessions for teams competing in the club tournaments on more than six world-class fields. There are also indoor and outdoor polo arenas.
The Polo School for all ages and ability levels operates in Carbondale July through September. For more information on tournaments or Polo School contact Director of Operations Juan Bollini at 561-346-1099 or club manager Cale Newman at 561-876-2930.
Aspen Valley Polo Club caters to men, women and youth polo players at all levels. Its’ expert staff can customize a complete playing experience including horses, pros and certified umpires in addition to lessons and practice sessions as part of its’ Polo On Demand program.