Lucchese wins Bombardier at SB PoloBy Melanja Jones September 10, 2011
Lucchese won an 11-9 victory over Piaget in the Bombardier Pacific Coast Open final on Sept. 4, but it wasn’t a gimme. Some victories are all the sweeter because of the struggle, and Piaget put up the fight of the season.
“Piaget played fabulously, but it came down to the horses,” observed Ambassador Glen Holden after the tournament. “The other team had them slightly out-horsed.”
But it takes more than just great horses to win. For the 2011 Lucchese Polo Team, the Centennial season at Santa Barbara Polo and Racquet Club started out with great expectations, as team owner John Muse and 10 goal superstar Adolfo Cambiaso were coming off a 2010 undefeated season. But although the team this year made the finals of the Piaget Silver Cup and Lucchese America Cup, they fell short of victory in those finals, as it seemed the competition had got a lot tougher and the wins were not coming as easy as last year.
Lucchese was not even the top seed in the PCO semifinals, losing to Audi in the last bracket game. But despite all the setbacks the Lucchese team never lost their focus and put together a phenomenal game in the PCO finals to win the most prestigious title of the season.
The marine layer cleared out just in time for the start of the match, and a capacity crowd witnessed Piaget jump out to an early lead with a penalty goal from Miguel Astrada, followed by a fantastic goal by Piaget patron Melissa Ganzi, as she jumped on a poorly handled Lucchese clearing shot and smoked the ball through the goal. Astrada added another tally, and a shell shocked Lucchese was saved from a first chukker shutout by a Jeff Blake penalty goal.
The second chukker was a different ball game, as Adolfo Cambiaso took control of the throw ins and just out ran Piaget the rest of the time. By the end of the chukker Lucchese had reeled off four unanswered goals and taken the lead 5-4.
Lucchese was unable to capitalize on their good fortune, however, as Astrada got on a very handy chestnut horse with a white face and danced his way around the field to add another goal and set up Jason Crowder for two more. Lucchese did get two more goals to keep the score tied at 7 up on the scoreboard going into the halftime break.
The first half had been high scoring, the second half featured some great end to end runs as well as tricky plays in the middle of the field, but the defensive efforts of Jeff Blake for Lucchese and Juan Bollini for Piaget took their toll on the goal tally.
In a low scoring 4th chukker, Astrada hit a perfect pass to Melissa Ganzi, who carried the ball through the goal for her second field goal and gave her team the lead. Cambiaso countered with a run of his own, and then in a frantic last minute, John Muse saved the day just feet from his own goal and hit a perfect backshot to Cambiaso, who came out off the goal line like a rocket and went coast to coast, getting fouled at the last second and giving Jeff Blake the open goal shot to close out the chukker with Lucchese up 9-8.
Neither team would yield in the 5th chukker, again Blake and Bollini were huge on defense, each team added one more goal to set up a 6th chukker showdown with Lucchese clinging to a 1 goal lead.
In the all important final chukker, most players were back on their best horse, most of which had played for several minutes earlier in the game. The fitness and heart of these equine athletes was impressive, and for every run by the speedy horse of Cambiaso, Astrada would counter with a shifty little move on the chestnut.
For every powerful rideoff by Bollini, Blake would counter with a quick acceleration to position himself for the back shot. The action was intense, but neither team seemed able to score. With just under two minutes left (BPP) awards over the years, and won two key lineups thanks to his mare’s incredible footwork and handle, keeping control of the ball for Lucchese.
Piaget had a chance until the ball was cleared out of a scrum on the grandstand side just after the warning horn, and Julio Gracida broke loose and made a very determined run to goal, making the only score of the 6th chukker with a cut shot with just 13 seconds remaining, thus securing the PCO championship for Lucchese.
BPP was Miguel Novillo Astrada’s Chaleco, the handy chestnut that played almost two full chukkers. MVP of the game was Adolfo Cambiaso, and the Robert Skene MVP for the season was Santa Barbara native son Jason Crowder. In an interesting twist, last year those same two players were holding the MVP trophies as well, but in 2010 the roles were reversed MVP of the game was Crowder, and the Skene MVP of the season was Cambiaso, and both were on the same team.Asked what it felt like to do battle against his former teammates, Crowder blithely replied, “It would have felt better if we won!”
Holden remaked of Cambiaso, “He played a great defense, and covered more of the team than he had to cover.” The Argentinian thunderbolt reportedly got a cool million to play the Santa Barbara 20-goal season. Announcer Andy White observed of Cambiaso that “At last year’s Argentine Open in Palermo he played the No. 1 (offensive) position on 40-goal team and was dominant. With him, the number makes no difference. He plays where he wants.”
It will be interesting to see if the two of them will keep winning the MVP awards next year!
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