WELLINGTON, FL-March 7, 2013 – In a textbook polo finish, 10-goaler Gonzalito Pieres took the knock-in and drove to the other end of field to score the winning goal and lead Audi to a thrilling 8-7 sudden death victory over Zorzal on opening day of the USPA Piaget Gold Cup.
Audi’s Gonzalito Pieres taking control of the ball and driving downfield against tight Zorzal defense from Fred Mannix. Photo credit Alex Pacheco.
Pieres showed why he is one of the world’s eight top-ranked players with his ball-control run and deft mallet play scoring just 35 seconds into the overtime period.
The textbook play was mapped out in the players’ tent after regulation play ended with the game tied at 7-7 Thursday at International Polo Club Palm Beach in front of a packed field attendance.
“Their four guys were really deep so we decided to play more individual,” Gonzalito Pieres said. “I was to take the knock-in, Jeff (Hall) went to No. 1, Nico (Pieres) No. 3 and Juancito (Bollini) No. 2 and we would go outside so I could create more speed and it worked.
“Sometimes it doesn’t work, but that time it worked,” Pieres said. “I am happy that we won but I think it’s important that we need to improve to be where we want to be.”
Added Hall, “We’re happy to win, but like Gonzalito said we have a long ways to go. This is definitely a step in a positive direction. Sudden death is sudden death, you need a little bit of luck. Plays like that don’t always work out like that. We had the right guy running to goal, that’s for sure.”
Audi team captain Marc Ganzi watched the game in street clothes after being told by doctors he needed to allow his fractured thumb to heal. Ganzi, who has been playing well despite a knee injury and fractured thumb, expects to be sidelined for at least two weeks.
Wellington High School’s Juancito Bollini, 16-year-old substitute player for Audi team captain Marc Ganzi, who sat out the game with a thumb injury. Photo credit Alex Pacheco.
The player-padrone put his faith in 16-year-old Wellington High School student Juancito Bollini, the son of former eight-goaler Juan Bollini, to replace him in the lineup. The young Bollini played beyond his years and held his own against more-experienced and physical players who outweighed him by at least fifty pounds.
“I have known Juancito my whole life,” Ganzi said. “That family is very close to us and we’ve watched these kids grow up. We’ve gotten to watch his development as a player. He is cool in the head and has a lot of intelligence and poise for his age and I think today that’s what he showed us. He had to hit some big back-handers under duress and some big moments of the game. He did awesome today. It was easy to give him this opportunity, he is like another son to me.”
It was the teenager’s 26-goal tournament debut and “opportunity of a lifetime,” he said. Before Thursday’s game, the highest-rated tournament Bollini had competed in was 12 goals.
“I was nervous for three days when they told me I would be playing,” said Bollini, rated at one goal. “I played a practice before the game and that helped me a lot.
“I have learned from a combination of players but mostly my dad,” Bollini said.
No one was prouder than his father, Juan Bollini, who has played and worked with the Ganzi family for fourteen years.
“I tried to tell him as little as possible before the game because I didn’t want to make him nervous,” the elder Bollini said. “I know he is playing with the best player in the world. I prefer Gonzalito to tell him what to do because as a father I don’t want to be like a soccer mom. I respect whatever they tell him.”
Nico Pieres led Audi’s balanced scoring attack with four goals, Gonzalito Pieres had three goals and Hall scored the tying goal with 4:38 left in the sixth chukker after his steal and long run to goal.
“This win was important because we played against a new team with four really good players, we expected a tough game,” Nico Pieres said. “We played quite good, I think we could play a bit better. There are no easy games, never.”
Audi’s Nico Pieres reaches for the ball from charging Zorzal defense as Audi teammates Jeff Hall (green helmet) and Gonzalito Pieres follow the play. Photo credit Alex Pacheco.
Pieres was impressed with his older brother’s sudden death goal execution.
“We talked about the winning play,” Pieres said. “We wanted him to take the ball with Juancito, Jeff and me to start blocking and then we would see what happens. If Gonzo had a chance to go on his own like he did, that was it. If not then there was a play for me or Jeff.
“This was the first game of the Gold Cup and it’s always important to win the first game,” Pieres said. “Our team is getting better and Juancito played really good. It was a tough game for him because he had to mark 6- and 7-goal players. I remember when I was 16. I didn’t start playing 26-goal until I was 17.”
Zorzal, one of two new teams in the tournament, featured 6-goalers Fred Mannix and Jason Crowder and 7-goalers Marianito Obregon and Mariano Gonzalez.
Obregon led his team’s scoring with three goals, Mannix had two and Gonzalez and Crowder each scored one.
In other Thursday games, Zacara, led by Facundo Pieres’ 10 goals, routed Coca-Cola, 17-7, and Valiente defeated Mt. Brilliant, 15-6. Ten-goalers Adolfo Cambiaso and Pelon Stirling combined for nine goals for Valiente.
Audi’s Grand Champions Polo Club mate Piaget opens play on Saturday at 2 p.m. against Lechuza Caracas. Audi plays again on Sunday against C.V. Whitney Cup champion Alegria at noon.
First played in 1974, the 26-goal USPA Gold Cup has been played at various polo clubs but found a home at IPC in 2007.
When the USPA awarded IPC the Gold Cup in 2007, the International Polo Club Palm Beach, home of the 26-goal C.V. Whitney Cup Tournament and U.S. Open Championship, sealed its place in history as host of all three legs of the Triple Crown.
Piaget is saluting IPC’s tenth anniversary with the launch of its new luxury Polo FortyFive Black watch which will join their successful collection of polo watches first introduced in the late 1970s.
USPA PIAGET GOLD CUP AUDI/PIAGET SCHEDULE
Saturday, March 9: Lechuza Caracas vs. Piaget, 2 p.m.
Sunday, March 10: Alegria vs. Audi, noon
Thursday, March 14: Piaget vs. Orchard Hill, 10 a.m.; Zacara vs. Audi, 4 p.m.
Sunday, March 17: Valiente vs. Audi, 10 a.m.; Piaget vs. ERG, 3 p.m.
Wednesday, March 20: Piaget Gold Cup Semifinals, 2, 4 p.m.
Thursday, March 21: Butler Handicap Semifinals, Gold Cup subsidiary, 10 a.m., noon
Sunday, March 24: Butler Handicap Final, noon; USPA Piaget Gold Cup Final, 3 p.m.
Tuesday, March 26: U.S. Open begins, schedule, pairings to be announced.
AUDI/PIAGET TOURNAMENT LINEUP
March 7-March 24, USPA Piaget Gold Cup
March 26-April 21, 109th Maserati U.S. Open Polo Championship
GRAND CHAMPIONS POLO CLUB
WHERE: On the corner of South Shore Boulevard and Lake Worth Road, Wellington.
INFORMATION: There are great field side views for tournament action at the home base of pro teams Audi and Piaget. Everyone is welcome to watch polo in a relaxed atmosphere during the spring and fall tournament season and other special events including the International Cup, Buzz Welker Memorial Junior Tournament, Women’s Championship Tournament and Gay Polo League Tournament.