GREENWICH, Ct., August 29, 2016---In a hotly-contested USPA East Coast Open game, Audi began its’ title defense with a thrilling 11-10 victory over Airstream Sunday at Greenwich Polo Club.
In front of a worldwide ChukkerTV audience, Audi’s new-look lineup of Marc Ganzi, Leo Mandelbaum, Nic Roldan and Sebastian Merlos was pushed to the limit in the team’s opening bracket game of the eight-team tournament.
Merlos, a former 10-goaler making his ECO debut with Audi, ignited Audi’s sixth-chukker rally with three goals to break an 8-8 tie.
“We knew it was going to be tough, it was a battle,” said Roldan, Audi’s second leading scorer with four goals. “Obviously, the first game with a new team is going to be tough.
“Airstream has been playing together for a few months and it showed. I think they are one of the toughest teams in our bracket.”
Airstream (Agustin Bottaro, Guille Aguero, Matias Magrini, Kris Kampsen) needed to find its rhythm, falling behind in its penalty-marred opening chukker, 3-1, with goals from Roldan, Ganzi and Merlos.
Airstream, after committing five fouls in the first chukker and trailing 4-1 early in the second chukker, started to find its rhythm and offense midway through the second chukker to trail 4-3 after two chukkers.
Airstream tied the game for the first time when Kampsen found Aguero running forward on a breakaway for a 4-4 tie. Audi regained the lead in the final two minutes of the half when Roldan’s long ball connected with Merlos who banked it off the post for a goal and 5-4 lead.
The fast-paced first half featured four yellow cards including two on Kampsen forcing him to sit out the game for two minutes late in the third and early in the fourth chukkers.
Roldan’s back-to-back goals gave Audi a three-goal lead (7-4) early in the fourth chukker but it was shortlived with Airstream rallying to tie Audi 7-7 at the end of the fourth chukker and 8-8 after the fifth to set up Merlos’ heroics.
Merlos finished with a game-high six goals. Aguero and Kampsen each had four goals.
“We really needed to win that match, it was tough,” Merlos said. “We were in control in the first two chukkers and then we lost it. The last chukker we had to come out and use our head and keep possession of the ball. Sometimes we tried to do too much with the ball but we came together in the last chukker.”
Both teams failed to take advantage of eight missed penalty shots in the first five chukkers. After Airstream lost its challenge on Magrini’s foul, Merlos converted one penalty shot to tie the game 8-8 and two penalty shots and a goal from the field in the final chukker. Kampsen and Aguero added goals in the final minutes.
With 5:06 left in the game, Ganzi settled his teammates down by telling them to use their heads and keep their poise.
“We felt confident in ourselves and the horses,” Roldan said. “Airstream had a hell of a game. It could have gone either way. We really dug deep and pulled it out to get the win. Today was intense, definitely one of the hardest games I played here.
“There’s a lot of good competition here. There’s a lot of good teams and they all want to win it. It’s an open tournament. Anyone can win it.”
In Sunday’s second game, Postage Stamp Farm won its ECO debut with a 12-7 win over Tupungato. In Saturday’s tournament-opening games, host White Birch defeated Faraway, 12-6, and Goose Creek downed Beluga, 15-11.
On Wednesday at 10 a.m., Audi plays Tupungato (Luis Rinaldini, Santi Torres, Naco Taverna, Gaston Lisioli).
Audi of America and its’ 29 Tri-State Audi dealers is presenting sponsor. Audi and its’ U.S. dealers offer a full line of German-engineered luxury cars. AUDI AG is among the most successful luxury automotive brands globally. Audi broke all-time company sales records for the sixth straight year in the U.S.
ChukkerTV is live streaming every preliminary, semifinal and final game. U.S. Polo Assn. is sponsoring the ECO broadcast. U.S. Polo Assn. is the official global apparel brand of the USPA, the governing body for the sport in the U.S. since 1890.
ChukkerTV, an independent media company based in Wellington, was the first to introduce state-of-the-art live streaming technology in January 2014 at Grand Champions Polo Club. One of the biggest highlights for polo players is the use of technology in live streaming, instant replays and team reviews.
NBC Sports Network will air a 60-minute taped broadcast on Sept. 17 at 3 p.m. with drone aerials and instant replays for team challenges also provided by ChukkerTV.
The East Coast Open began in 1905 in Rhode Island and was played until World War I. It was resurrected in 1978 by former USPA President Donald Little at the Myopia Polo Club in South Hamilton, Mass. White Birch padron Peter Brant started hosting the tournament in the early 2000’s at Greenwich Polo Club.
The USPA was organized and exists for the purpose of promoting the game of polo, coordinating the activities of its member clubs and registered players, arranging and supervising polo tournaments, competitions, and games and providing rules, handicaps, and conditions for those tournaments, competitions, and games including the safety and welfare of participants and mounts.
2016 EAST COAST OPEN RESULTS/SCHEDULE
SATURDAY, AUG. 27: Goose Creek 15, Beluga 11; White Birch 12, Faraway 6.
SUNDAY, AUG. 28: Audi 11, Airstream 10; Postage Stamp Farm 12, Tupungato 7.
TUESDAY, AUG. 30: 4 p.m., White Birch vs. Goose Creek.
WEDNESDAY, AUG. 31: 10 a.m., Audi vs. Tupungato; 5 p.m., Airstream vs. Postage Stamp Farm.
THURSDAY, SEPT. 1: TBD, Faraway vs. Beluga.
SATURDAY, SEPT. 3: 10 a.m., Beluga vs. White Birch; 4 p.m., Airstream vs. Tupungato.
SUNDAY, SEPT. 4: 3 p.m., Goose Creek vs. Faraway and Audi vs. Postage Stamp Farm.
TUESDAY, SEPT. 6: TBD, Tommy B. Glynn Semifinal Game 1.
WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 7: TBD, ECO Semifinal Game 1, ECO Semifinal Game 2.
THURSDAY, SEPT. 8: TBD, Tommy B. Glynn Semifinal Game 2.
SATURDAY, SEPT. 10: TBD, Tommy B. Glynn Final; 4 p.m., Governor’s Cup.
SUNDAY, Sept. 11: 3 p.m., ECO Finals.