Wellington, Fla. – May 14, 2019 – In another exciting overtime final at Grand Champions Polo Club, Aspen Valley captured the Spring Challenge Cup on Sunday.
With 6:06 left in overtime, Pablo Pulido took a pass from Grant Ganzi and broke away to score the winning goal to lead Aspen Valley (Pablo Pulido, 2, Juancito Bollini, 4, Grant Ganzi, 3, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 8) to a thrilling 9-8 victory over Palm Beach Equine (Brandon Phillips, 4, Juan Bollini, 5, Nic Roldan, 8, Scott Swerdlin, 0).
In last week’s Sun Cup final, Dutta Corp defeated Aspen Valley, 10-9, in overtime.
Pulido, a Cornell alum, was named Most Valuable Player. Playing well above his goal rating, Pulido scored three goals and played well defensively.
“We came out at the beginning of overtime and just said stick to the man on the throw-ins and as soon as we see someone with the ball just go at it,” Pulido said.
Astrada hooked Phillips after he came up with the opening throw-in. Ganzi pounced on the ball and hit a tail shot to Pulido who raced to goal with a perfect 60-yard approach shot down the middle and two quick hits to score.
“Grant did a phenomenal play, hitting a very nice lofty back shot that went over all the players and lands right in front of me,” Pulido said. “I just had to drill it in. I had Scott on my side but I was lucky the ball went in.”
Added Astrada, “I was with Nic on the throw-in and I saw that Brandon had the ball. I went to help Granti who was in position to get the ball so I hooked Brandon. Granti hit an amazing back shot to Pablo who was alone and went to goal.”
Said Ganzi, “Pablo did exactly what I thought he was going to do. I told him in the tent before overtime that he was doing great going forward today and going to the goal so well. He was playing lights out and made some great goals. I said do one more. I had confidence in him and I told him he was going to do it again.”
Limoncello, a 12-year-old Chestnut gelding owned and played by Pulido for a chukker and a half including overtime, was selected Grand Champions Best Playing Pony.
“He’s a very nice horse, very easy to play,” Pulido said.
Aspen Valley controlled the momentum of the game for most of the first half, jumping out to a 4-0 lead with 2:06 left in the third chukker. Back-to-back goals by Roldan in the final two minutes cut the lead to two to trail 4-2 at the half.
“At the beginning we controlled the game and I thought it was going to be like that the whole game,” Astrada said. “I knew they were a very good team but I thought we had it handled. Then we started making mistakes that we were not doing in the beginning. We started losing the man and that’s when we allowed them to get into the game. Then it became a very tight game.”
Palm Beach Equine dominated the throw-ins early in the second half and started clawing its way back into the game, outscoring Aspen Valley, 6-5, in the second half.
“They started disrupting our flow and we didn’t adjust,” Ganzi said. “Nic started bringing in the ball more and doing his Nic thing, cutting off the plays on our knock-ins.”
Phillips scored all five of his goals in the second half. He tied the game 6-6 at the 2:03 mark in the fifth chukker with an off-balance neck shot.
Aspen Valley regained the lead, 7-6, when Bollini scored at the horn. After several missed scoring opportunities by both teams in the first four minutes of the sixth chukker, Roldan converted a 30-yard penalty to tie the game at 7-7.
With 33 seconds left in regulation, Bollini scored again on a breakaway for an 8-7 lead. Twenty seconds later Roldan connected with Phillips who scored with another nice neck shot to send the game into overtime.
“This team is phenomenal,” Pulido said. “It’s a well-rounded team. We all played well. Alejandro kept pushing us to make sure we didn’t drop the ball. We came out with a 4-0 lead and kind of lost it a bit in the middle. Brandon played really, really well in the fourth and the fifth. We were just able to come back.”
Other scorers for Aspen Valley were Bollini with three goals, Astrada with two and Ganzi with one.
“I think every one played well, I think it was a good game to watch on the outside,” Ganzi said. “They just started changing their game plan. We started out playing really well but we didn’t adapt. They threw us for a loop a little bit.
“We weren’t going to win if we didn’t all play well and didn’t pull through at certain moments of the game,” Ganzi said. “I’m really happy to win it, it’s a pretty trophy and I’m really happy to be able to win in the spring. The level of play is awesome and the fields are great.”
Phillips scored a game-high five goals for Palm Beach Equine. Roldan added three.
“Brandon played an amazing game today, he was tough to cover,” Ganzi said.
In the subsidiary Just For The Love Of It, Audi (Marc Ganzi, 2, Sugar Erskine, 6, Pablo Spinacci, 6, Jared Zenni, 6) rallied in the second half for an impressive 13-12 win over defending tournament champion Dutta Corp (Carlitos Gracida, 4, Tommy Collingwood, 5, Timmy Dutta, 2, Kris Kampsen, 6).