Lucchese to face Piaget in Pacific OpenBy Melanja Jones September 2, 2011
After a very lively afternoon at the Santa Barbara Polo and Racquet Club, the Bombardier Pacific Coast Open semifinals are over and the teams that will face-off in the Sept.4 grand finale of SBP’s Centennial Season are set: defending champion Lucchese, led by John Muse, will face Melissa Ganzi’s Piaget team.
Lucchese did not have an easy path to the semifinals, as it had to get by a powerful ERG team that never quit attacking. The game started out a bit hesitantly, as the teams tested each other, but once things got going the action was fast and furious polo. Lucchese would be up a few goals only to see the ERG team claw its way back. Lucchese’s superstar, Adolfo Cambiaso, lived up to his 10-goal rating with some spectacular runs to goal and an almost supernatural ability to anticipate the play. But ERG had a not-so-secret weapon of its own in Sebastian Merlos, who countered with the skills that earned him a 10-goal rating in England. It was enough to keep ERG in the game.
Both players had a lot of help from their teammates. Lucchese spread the scoring evenly among its three pros, with patron John Muse setting up Cambiaso for his runs with textbook blocking. On the ERG side, the steady defense of Paco de Narvaez turned into an offense as he scored six goals. Miguelito Torres added two more. Patron Scott Wood played with great intensity, but it was not to be for ERG, which made it to the finals last year, but lost to Lucchese.
A second ERG rally fell just short as Lucchese’s Julio Gracida, with his team up by a single goal, won a key throw-in with just 45 seconds left. The shot went wide, but still gave Lucchese the 16-15 win as time expired. On July 31, it was ERG that triumphed, outrunning Lucchese 16-7 in the Piaget Silver Cup. It was the first time a USPA Silver Cup was played in Santa Barbara. (Piaget has hosted the USPA Gold Cup in Palm Beach, Florida, for the past four years.)
The second Bombardier PCO semifinal was a family affair, as the husband-and-wife duo of Melissa and Marc Ganzi played opposition. The recently reconfigured Piaget team went on a tear and jumped out to a lead of 8-5 at halftime. Piaget won most of the lineups, and when they couldn’t they played tough defense until they could grab a loose ball, facing off against Audi. Gonzalito Pieres kept Audi in the game with five penalty conversions in the first half. But in the second half Audi had an uphill battle that just got steeper when Miguel Astrada and Jason Crowder kept hitting each other on the give-and-go. Final score was 15-10 in favor of Piaget and Crowder led all scorers in the game with eight goals. Adding a touch of drama to an already heated season: Crowder will face his 2010 Lucchese teammates at the Bombardier PCO final on Sunday.
Lucchese had either the good grace or bad luck to lose its namesake Lucchese America Cup to Grants Farm (13-9) on Aug. 14. It’s anyone’s guess which team fortune will favor on Sunday, but one thing’s for sure: It will be a heck of a game!
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