Travieso Tops Casablanca To Capture Santa Rita Abierto; Jason Crowder MVP

In a showdown of two of the winningest team’s in club history, Travieso won the Santa Rita Abierto in a thrilling finish Sunday at windswept Grand Champions.

By Sharon Robb

With 16 seconds left and the game tied 9-9, Travieso (Teo Calle, 0, Tony Calle, 3, Tomacho Pieres, 6, Jason Crowder, 5) converted a 30-yard penalty to defeat Casablanca (Alex Webb, 2, Grant Ganzi, 3, Nic Roldan, 8, Juan Bollini, 3), 10-9.

Crowder, enjoying a successful spring season, was named Most Valuable Player. Peridot, played by Pieres and owned by Santa Rita Polo Farm, was Best Playing Pony.

“It’s great to get MVP, the horses played really well and I was very happy with the way the ball bounced in this tournament,” Crowder said. “We got very lucky and I got to pick up some goals the guys put in all the work for. I got to tap them in and it looked pretty. That’s always nice.”

In the final seconds, Tony Calle flipped Crowder an open nearside back shot towards the goal, jumped on the line and was fouled by Bollini setting up Pieres’ 30-yard penalty game-winning conversion.

“We were very lucky,” Crowder said. “It’s so awesome playing with those guys. They are so disciplined. They are good, happy people out there and such good teammates. It’s always positive stuff. Good chemistry, good dynamic and it all fit well.

“The four of us had a good time. It was all smiles in the tent at all times. All great reinforcement. No one said one negative thing, it was ‘good job, next play, next play.’ The whole time we were boosting each other up which was great. It was a pleasure to play with those guys. I loved it.”

The teams played evenly for most of the game with no more than one goal separating the teams until the fifth chukker when Travieso took a 9-6 lead with four minutes left and led 9-7 at the end of the chukker.

Casablanca dug itself out of a hole with three consecutive goals from Roldan to tie the game at 9-9.

“Tony coming back so strong from his injury was a big boost to the team,” Crowder said. “Teo played amazing pulling the team and scoring so many good goals. Tomacho just played amazing, he is a goal-scoring machine. It was easy. I just got to sit back in the back and picked up some trash every once in a while.”

Travieso got balanced scoring from its lineup. Pieres and Crowder each had three goals. Teo Calle added two. The 14-goal team also picked up two goals on handicap.

Roldan had a game-high five goals for 16-goal Casablanca. Ganzi had four goals.

Casablanca outshot Travieso, 16-12. Travieso led in knock-ins, 7-4. Both teams had eight throw-ins. Casablanca led in fouls, 9-6, with Travieso taking advantage converting two 30-yard penalties.

In the semifinals, Travieso advanced with an impressive 12-8 victory over Sebucan (Pablo Pulido, 2, Sugar Erskine, 6, Marc Ganzi, 1, Luis Escobar, 4).

Casablanca advanced after winning a nine-chukker round robin with a 5-3 win over Newport (Larry Austin, 0, Gene Goldstein, 0, Pablo Spinacci, 6, Freddie Mannix, 7) and 4-3 victory over Santa Rita (Melissa Ganzi, 0, Riley Ganzi, 0, Mariano Uranga, 6, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 7).

In the Just For The Fun Of It subsidiary round robin, Newport won defeating Sebucan, 7-5, and Santa Rita, 6-4. In the other match, Santa Rita defeated Sebucan, 7-6. Santa Rita finished second in the standings followed by Sebucan. Riley Ganzi was the leading scorer of the round robin with seven goals and was Most Valuable Player.

In last year’s Santa Rita Abierto, two talented teams featuring Work To Ride student-athletes battled to a tie. Grand Champions Team I (Gigi Velasquez, Shariah Harris, Marc Harley, Jeta Castagnola) and Grand Champions II (Alyssa Perren, Mosiah Gravesande, Marc Harris, Barto Castagnola) tied 7-7. With Grand Champions II leading, 7-6, Jeta Castagnola scored with nine seconds left to finish in a tie.

Travieso is the first champion of the spring tournament season. The Sun Cup final between Santa Rita and Newport was not played because of scheduling conflicts.

The remaining spring schedule (subject to change because of weather) is: May 10-14, Casablanca Spring Challenge; May 17-21, Eastern Challenge; May 24-29, The Memorial and May 26-28 WPL Polo Pride, the highlight event of the spring season.

The spring season is being live-streamed worldwide on Wellington-based ChukkerTV (CTV Sports) with Dale Schwetz calling the action.

Grand Champions, the nation’s largest  polo club celebrating its 16th anniversary, and Santa Rita Polo Farm is the largest and most unique private 102-acre polo facility in Wellington with 212 stalls in nine self-contained barns, two tracks, five climate-controlled tack rooms, vet room, staff quarters, guest house and four polo fields with state-of-the-art underground irrigation and short work arena. The club has nine world-class fields at GCPC and four at Santa Rita.

During the winter polo season, Grand Champions, the nation’s largest and most innovative USPA-sanctioned polo club, nestled in the heart of the world’s winter equestrian capital, hosted  tournaments: 6, 8, 12, 20, and 26-goal leagues, WCT Finals, The Polo School Women’s Weekly league play and 26-goal WPL tournaments at both Grand Champions and Santa Rita.

Grand Champions 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.

The Polo School, now located at the former Pony Express facility, operates in Wellington January through May and September through November. The stand-alone USPA-sanctioned polo club, is thriving. It is dedicated to teaching polo to all ages, particularly grass roots youth. Its mission is to provide individuals opportunities in polo at every economic and ability level. November. The Polo School has nurtured several junior, men and women polo players now playing in the pro and amateur ranks since its inception.

For more information on leagues or Polo School contact Director of Operations Juan Bollini at  561-346-1099 or General Manager Cale Newman at 561-876-2930.

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