By Alex Webbe
Opening round wins by Steta Polo Team (Guillermo Steta, Brian Boyd, Nic Roldan and Carlitos Gracida) and Flexjet (Marc Ganzi, Alejandra Foster, Julio Novillo Astrada and Alex Gooding) set the stage for Sunday’s final of the 2016 Mount Sopris Cup at the Aspen Valley Polo Club.
Billy Steta’s Steta Polo Team got off to a promising start in the opening match of the Mount Sopris Cup with team captain Guillermo “Billy” Steta scoring the first goal of the game followed by a penalty conversion from teammate Nic Roldan for a 2-0 lead. Los Amigos (Paul Foster, Lauren Sherry, Tincho Merlos and Gabriel Gracida) were unable to get on the scoreboard and trailed after the first chukker.
Turnabout was fair play for the Los Amigos team as second period goals from Lauren Sherry and Tincho Merlos leveled the score. A disciplined Los Amigos defense held Steta Polo Team scoreless with the two teams locked in a 2-2 tie.
The Los Amigos defense continued to hold into the third chukker. A single goal from Jonathan Gracida was the only score of the chukker as Los Amigos ended the first half on top of an anemic 3-2 score.
The Steta Polo Team bounced back as the second half got underway. Carlitos Gracida scored from the field to knot the score at 3-3 and a 60-yard penalty conversion from Roldan put Steta Polo Team into the lead. The Steta Polo Team goals went unanswered and Los Amigos found themselves trailing, 4-3.
Merlos scored on a 30-yard penalty shot for Los Amigos, 4-4, but the Steta Polo Team attack savaged the Los Amigos defenders. Fouls resulted in penalty opportunities with Roldan scoring on another 60-yard shot and Steta converting from 30-yards out. With one chukker remaining in regulation play, Steta Polo Team held a 6-4, two-goal advantage.
Another chukker of shutout defense by Steta Polo held the Los Amigos offense to a single goal in the last three periods of play. A final goal from Brian Boyd closed out the scoring with Steta Polo Team riding off with the 7-4 win.
Flexjet 7, Tonkawa 5
Flexjet trailed Tonkawa (Jeff Hildebrand, Jimmy Seward, Lucas Lalor and Stewart Armstrong) in the first four chukkers of the afternoon game at High Mesa Field before staging a rally in the final two periods of play for a 7-5 victory and a berth in Sunday’s final of the Mount Sopris Cup.
Home field advantage might be the reason Tonkawa took the early lead on a pair of goals from team captain Jeff Hildebrand, but Flexjet’s inability to score had something to do with it as well. After the first seven minutes of play the lead went to Tonkawa, 2-0.
Hildebrand’s third goal of the game came on a 30-yard penalty shot that extended the Tonkawa lead to three goals, 3-0. Marc Ganzi answered back with a goal for Flexjet, cutting the lead back to two goals, 3-1.
Defense was the hallmark of the third chukker, with Julio Novillo Astrada accounting for the only goal of the period. At the end of the first half, but Tonkawa continued to lead by the narrow 3-2 score.
The two teams traded goals in the fourth period with Hildebrand scoring for Tonkawa and Astrada responding with a goal from the field for Flexjet. Flexjet continued to press their attack but the Tonkawa defense was holding. With two chukkers left to play, the led remained in the hands of Tonkawa, 4-3.
The Flexjet defense stepped up in the fifth chukker and shut down the Tonkawa attack. Goals from Alexandra Foster and Ganzi went unanswered. With once period left in the game, it was Flexjet with the lead, 5-4.
Alex Gooding came through with an insurance goal in the sixth, 6-4, and Ganzi converted a 30-yard penalty shot to give Flexjet a thee goals lead, 7-4. The final goal of the day went to Hildebrand, his fifth of the day, on a 30-yard penalty shot but it was Flexjet with the 7-5 victory.
The wins by Steta Polo Team and Flexjet will pit them against one another in Sunday’s 1pm (MST) final. Tonkawa will face Los Amigos in Sunday’s 11am (MST) game.