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Youth tournament winners

 

Florida lineup victorious in debut of USPA Youth Tournament

By Alex Webbe

The Zone 3-Florida lineup of Justin Daniels, Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini and Wes Finlayson captured the championship of the United States Polo Association’s inaugural National Youth Tournament Series National Championship Sunday afternoon at the Virginia International Polo Club in Upperville, Virginia scoring an impressive 9-4 win over The Zone 2 lineup of Andrew Begg, Pierce Alworth, Agustin Arellano and Wes Bryan.

The final round is the culmination of several months of intense tournament play, which included qualifiers around the country with 16 all-stars selected to represent the final four regions and vie for the National Championship title.

With four teams entered in the tournament and rosters that were sprinkled with last names familiar to ardent polo fans, the United States Polo Association launched their latest effort to build the game from the younger ranks.

Competition got underway on Saturday, August 31st as Zone 3 advanced into the final with a 7-3 in over Zone 4 (Wyatt Harlow, Johann Colloredo-Mansfield, Simon Colloredo-Mansfeld, and Marissa Wells) on Saturday, in the opening round game.

The Zone 3-Florida had the advantage of having played together in the past, with Ganzi, Bollini and Finlayson having united on the 2013 8-goal Grand Champions team that won the USPA Presidents Cup at the International Polo Club this spring.

The genetic credentials of Ganzi, Bollini and Daniels are reflective in the long-standing involvement of parents in the game with Marc and Melissa Ganzi’s well-established Grand Champions Polo Club serving as an annual site for nearly every level of competition and the home base for 20-goal and 26 goal Piaget and Audi polo teams, which allowed fifteen-year-old Grant Ganzi the opportunity to compete on the field with some of the game’s top players.

Juancito Bollini claims the genetic prowess of his father, former 8-goaler Juan Bollini, who claims some of the game’s top trophies to his credit over the years including the USPA Gold Cup, the North America Cup, and multiple Monty Waterbury championships among many others.

Justin Daniels follows in the path of his father’s Pony Express participation in the game over the years with 17-year-old Wes Finlayson making his own name on the strength of strong performances on tournament play in his young career and a 2-goal handicap.

Polo veteran John Gobin was brought in to coach the talented young Florida team offering years of high-goal experience that includes several round of play on United States international rosters.

“John Gobin was a huge help to us,” cited young Ganzi.  “He settled us down and offered some great plays for us to use in the course of the game.”

The team continued to gel under the watchful eye of Gobin, but it was the chemistry that he felt carried the day.

“The kids played disciplined polo,” he offered.  “Whatever I asked them to do, they did,” he added.  “They played the unselfish brand of polo that breeds success and executed their responsibilities well to a man.”

Ganzi also credits the team chemistry to the success of the Florida side.

“We played so well together,” said Ganzi, “it was a seamless effort with each of us working for one another.  There was no selfishness on the team, and we all complimented one another’s play throughout the tournament.”

“After the first half of the final game I told Grant (Ganzi) that he was going to be my workhorse in the second half,” said Gobin, “and that it was time to hook him up to the plow.”

Bollini and Finlayson confirmed the team effort that Florida demonstrated throughout the tournament.

“Wes (Finlayson) scored the first three goals of the (final) game,” said Bollini, “but each of us did our job contributing to the effort.”

“John Gobin did a great job coaching,” said both Finlayson and Bollini.  “He kept us focused and got us to slow down in the second half of the finals, to take control of the game and the pace of play.”

It was a Bollini ride-off that allowed Finlayson a clear path for his first goal of the day, while scoring runs by Daniels were accentuated by the workhorse efforts of Ganzi throughout the match.

Zone 3 All-Stars led the entire game, taking a 2-1 lead in the opening chukker and 3-1 halftime lead. Behind Daniels and Finlayson, who each scored two goals, they pulled away for a 7-2 lead in the third chukker.

For the two-day tournament, Bollini and Finlayson each scored six goals, Daniels four and Ganzi one.

 

Finlayson led all scoring with four goals including one on penalty and was named Most Valuable Player, an honor he had earned playing with the Grand Champions Polo team that garnered the National President’s Cup earlier in the year.

 

 

Bollini and Daniels each had two goals and Ganzi scored one goal.

Daniel’s mare Lolita was named Best Playing Pony.