By Sharon Robb

  Defending U.S. Arena Handicap champions Alejandro Novillo Astrada, MVP Juan Bollini and Melissa Ganzi of Flexjet.

Defending U.S. Arena Handicap champions Alejandro Novillo Astrada, MVP Juan Bollini and Melissa Ganzi of Flexjet.

CARBONDALE, Colo., August 8, 2018---Flexjet will return to defend its title Thursday in the United States Arena Handicap Polo Championship at Aspen Valley Polo Club.

Several of the top players in the world including Argentine brothers Alejandro and Nacho Novillo Astrada and top American player Nic Roldan will compete among the four-team field.

The teams are:

Casablanca: Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Nacho Novillo Astrada.

Flexjet: Melissa Ganzi, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Juan Bollini.

Mountain Chevrolet: Michael Payne, Lucas Lalor, Kris Kampsen.

The Polo School: Aiden Meeker, Carlitos Gracida, Nic Roldan.

The Flexjet trio of Ganzi, Bollini and Novillo Astrada defeated Audi (Marc Ganzi, Nacho Novillo Astrada, Stewart Armstrong), 12-9, in an action-packed thriller.

In a battle of unbeatens, Flexjet broke a 6-6 halftime tie on Astrada's goal late in the third chukker and never trailed. Bollini shared high-game scoring honors with Ganzi and Armstrong, each with four goals. Ganzi, the only woman in the final, finished with 18 goals in three games. Flexjet was the most dominant team in the field scoring 43 goals.

Bollini, a veteran professional player for more than 30 years and cancer survivor, was named Most Valuable Player after dominating the game and scoring two 2-pointers.

Alejandro Novillo Astrada was named Tournament Most Valuable Pro Player. He finished with 19 goals in three games including three goals in the final. It was Astrada's summer polo season debut.

Armstrong, a USPA member since 1973, was named Tournament Most Valuable Amateur Player. Armstrong’s horse, Bianca, a 7-year-old mare, was named Best Playing Pony.

It is the second time in several years that the tournament, which features the semifinals ( 11 a.m. MST/1 p.m. EST) and finals (2 p.m. MST/4 p.m. EST) on Thursdaywill be played as a stand-alone event. A Kidz Game will be held during the break between games.

Also for the second consecutive year, both games will be live streamed simultaneously on uspolo.org, the United States Polo Association Facebook page, Twitter (PoloAssociation) and YouTube (USPA Polo Network).

The annual event dates back to 1980 and is a national USPA tournament played at medium goal level. In the past, the tournament has been played as a subsidiary to the U.S. Open Arena Polo Championship at Country Farms Polo Club in Medford, N.Y.

Part of the challenge of arena polo is the arena itself, a confined area of 150 feet by 300 feet. The fast-paced, spectator-friendly four-chukker game features teams of three playing on a dirt/sand surface with a larger polo ball, more like a mini-soccer ball.

UNITED STATES POLO ASSOCIATION

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. Founded in 1890, the USPA is the national governing body for the sport of polo. USPA is currently comprised of almost 300-member clubs with thousands of individual members and oversees 40 national tournaments. For more information, please visit uspolo.org.

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