Audi, Casablanca, Tonkawa Win Thrillers On Opening Day Of 119th USPA Silver Cup

Carbondale, Colorado – July 28, 2019 – On a historical day for Aspen Valley Polo Club, the 119th USPA Silver Cup opened Saturday with three action-packed games. In front of a good local crowd and worldwide USPA Polo Network audience at McClure River Ranch, Audi, Tonkawa and Casablanca won bracket game openers.

Alejandro Novillo Astrada of Flexjet works the nearside shot with Mason Wroe of Tonkawa on his hip.

With 30 seconds left, Sapo Caset stole the ball and scored the winning goal to lead Tonkawa (Jeff Hildebrand, 0, Juan Martin Obregon, 5, Sapo Caset, 10, Mason Wroe, 4) to an 11-10 victory over Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, 0, Gussie Busch, 2, Hilario Ulloa, 10, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 8) in the opening game.

In the second game, Hilario Figueras converted a clutch penalty shot in the final minute as Audi (Marc Ganzi, 2, Hilario Figueras, 3, Nic Roldan, 8, Jared Zenni, 6) held off a late-charging La Karina (Brian Boyd, 0, Carlitos Gracida, 4, Sebastian Merlos, 8, Tincho Merlos, 8) for a 10-9 victory.

Hilario Ulloa of Flexjet tries to break away from Mason Wroe of Tonkawa.

Trailing for most of the game, Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, 3, Lucas Lalor, 5, Nacho Novillo Astrada, 8, Juancito Bollini, 4) rallied in the final chukker for a 12-11 triumph over McClure River Ranch (Salvador Lockey, 2, Stewart Armstrong, 3, Kris Kampsen, 6, Alfredo Bigatti, 8) in the third and final game.

On Wednesday, Audi (1-0) plays at Tonkawa (1-0) at 10 a.m.; La Karina (0-1) plays McClure River Ranch (0-1) at 1 p.m. and Casablanca (1-0) plays Flexjet (0-1) at 3 p.m. The last two games will be held at McClure River Ranch.

Brian Boyd of La Karina stretches to hook Nic Roldan of Audi.

Opening day action lived up to expectations despite two weather delays in the second and third games.

With two aggressive 10-goalers in the lineup, Flexjet and Tonkawa were evenly-matched from the opening throw-in. Tonkawa opened with leads of 3-1 and 4-2, but Flexjet bounced back with a 3-1 third chukker for a 5-5 halftime tie.

Flexjet had its biggest lead, 7-5, after Busch scored with 3:22 left in the fourth chukker, but missed a penalty conversion and uneven rideoff penalty opened the door for Tonkawa to finish the chukker tied at 7-7 after an Obregon penalty-three conversion and Caset goal.

Jared Zenni of Audi stride-for-stride with Sebastian Merlos of La Karina.

The lead changed hands three times in the fifth chukker with Tonkawa leading, 9-8. Tonkawa pulled away with a 10-8 lead early in the sixth chukker. Flexjet worked its way back when Ulloa stole and ball and worked his way between Caset and Obregon for a goal and Astrada converted a penalty-three to tie 10-10 before Caset came up with the game-winner.

Caset scored a team-high five goals, Obregon had three and Hildebrand added two. Tonkawa, a 19-goal team, picked up one goal on handicap. Ulloa scored a team-high five goals, Astrada had four and Busch had one.

In a wild finish that included an hour weather delay for lightning, Audi maintained its composure with the game tied 9-9 with 2:18 left to knock off reigning USPA North American Cup champion La Karina.

Alfredo Bigatti of McClure River Ranch tries to hit out of a crowd.

Audi, leading 9-8 and playing without Ganzi (two yellow cards) for two minutes, kept its poise when La Karina, trailing 6-1 after two chukkers, tied the game at 9-9 on Tincho Merlos’ 40-yard penalty conversion with 2:18 left in the game.

With a minute left, Roldan and Zenni looked to Figueras for the game-winning penalty conversion. Figueras then went on the defensive and came back with another key back shot save on Sebastian Merlos’ goal attempt. Zenni and Roldan then took turns running out the clock.

Roldan led Audi with a game-high five goals. Figueras had two goals and Zenni added one. The 19-goal team also had a penalty-one and one goal on handicap. Tincho Merlos had a team-high four goals and Carlitos Gracida added three. Boyd and Sebastian Merlos each had one goal.

In another exciting finish, Casablanca, trailing 5-1 and 6-1 after the first two chukkers, started reeling in McClure River Ranch in the third chukker. After a 15-minute rain delay, Casablanca trailed 7-4 at the half and trailed by only one, 10-9 after five chukkers.

Nacho Novillo Astrada of Casablanca goes to hook Kris Kampsen of McClure River Reach.

Ganzi’s 50-yarder tied the game at 10-10 followed by a penalty-one on an uneven rideoff when Astrada had control of the ball to give Casablanca the lead, 11-10, for the first time in the game.

Kampsen tied the game back at 11-11 when he stole the ball and scored with 2:30 left. After McClure River Ranch lost its challenge on a penalty call, Bollini converted a penalty-two to retake the lead, 12-11. On the next series of plays, Ganzi stole the ball and then took turns with Astrada to run out the clock.

Astrada led Casablanca with a game-high five goals. Bollini had four goals and Ganzi added two. Bigatti and Kampsen each had four goals for McClure River Ranch. Lockey and Armstrong each had one.

The club’s second USPA 20-goal tournament of the summer season features six teams and several of the world’s top polo players in its historical debut at Aspen Valley Polo Club.

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