By Alex Webbe
Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, Jeff Wood, Julio Novillo Astrada, Juan Bollini and Erica Gandomcar-Sachs), NOH Foods of Hawaii (Ray Noh, Carlitos Gracida, Lucas Lalor and Stewart Armstrong) and Tonkawa (Jeff Hildebrand, Tincho Merlos, Jimmy Seward and Michael Payne) gathered at the Aspen Valley Polo club on Sunday to compete in the final tournament of the season, the Carbondale Classic.
Wrapping up an action-packed season that began with the Independence Cup the first week of July and included ten weeks of fast-paced tournament competition, three teams took part in the final tournament of the summer that included players from Texas, Hawaii, Denver, Houston, Palm Beach and Argentina.
In the opening three chukkers of the round-robin, Ray Noh’s NOH Foods of Hawaii team scored a narrow 5-4 win over Tonkawa.
NOH Foods of Hawaii scored four times in the opening chukker with Carlitos Gracida scoring twice (once on a penalty shot) while teammates Ray Noh and Lucas Lalor each added a goal. Jeff Hildebrand responded with the only goal for his Tonkawa team and trailed early, 4-1.
Second chukker goals from Jimmy Seward and Tincho Merlos went unanswered but NOH Foods of Hawaii continued to lead, 4-3.
The two teams traded goals in the final period with Noh scoring from the field while Tonkawa’s sole goal came on a penalty conversion
from Hildebrand. The win went to NOH Foods of Hawaii, 5-4.
Flexjet 4, Tonkawa 3
Tonkawa held the field for the second three chukkers against a fresh Flexjet lineup, but fared no better. First chukker goals from Juan Bollini and Jeff Wood were complimented by a solid defensive effort that held Tonkawa scoreless and left them trailing 2-0 at the end of the first period.
Hildebrand and Merlos responded with single goals in the second chukker to tie the game. Flexjet was unable to break through the Tonkawa defenders and the two teams left the field after two chukkers all even at 2-2.
Erica Gandomcar-Sachs broke the tie with the opening goal of the third period, a penalty conversion, and put Flexjet back into the lead, 3-2. Flexjet team captain Melissa Ganzi stretched the led to two goals, 4-2, as Tonkawa battled to get back into the game. A goal from Hildebrand brought Tonkawa to within a goal of the lead, 4-3, but time was on the side of Flexjet as they ran out the clock for the 4-3 win.
Flexjet 6, NOH Foods of Hawaii 4
Another strong start gave Flexjet the lead in the opening minutes of the final three chukkers of the day. Single goals from Gandomcar-Sachs and Julio Novillo Astrada gave them an early 2-0 lead. Roy Noh converted a penalty shot that cut the lead back to a single goal, 2-1. Gandomcar-Sachs added a final goal that ended the first chukker with Flexjet in the lead by two goals, 3-1.
Carlitos Gracida scored on a penalty shot for NOH Foods of Hawaii in a defensively-oriented second period, 3-2. Melissa Ganzi gave Flexjet an insurance goal for the only other score of the chukker. The Flexjet lead stood at 4-2 with just one chukker of play left in regulation time.
Juan Bollini took control of the game in the final chukker, scoring the first two goals of the period and extending the Flexjet lead to four goals, 6-2. Lucas Lalor staged a last offensive gasp for NOH Foods of Hawaii, netting a pair of goals when the Flexjet defense shut it down and held on for the 6-4 win and the Carbondale Classic title.
Juan Bollini earned MVP honors with Santa Rita Polo Farm’s Kit Kat being selected as Best Playing Pony. The five-year-old Bay mare was played by Lucas Lalor.
The players will now scatter across the country until many of them return to play in the Aspen Valley Polo Club’s Aspen World Snow Polo Championship in December.