It's Showtime For Audi, ELG In Saturday's USPA National 20-Goal Final
ELG's Guille Aguero (2) gets ready to pass the ball to teammate Tommy Biddle (4) waiting downfield to score one of his seven goals. Photo by Scott Fisher
Game time is 3 p.m. for the final 20-goal tournament of the fall season which will enter the eight-year-old club's history book as the most competitive.
ELG, (Avery Chapman, Guille Aguero, Kris Kampsen, Tommy Biddle) the only remaining undefeated team at 3-0, advanced on Friday with a decisive 13-8 victory over Casablanca in the second semifinal game.
|Casablanca's Hector Galindo (2) and teammate Grant Ganzi (1) try to mount a drive downfield. Photo by Scott Fisher|
Audi, 2-1, (Marc Ganzi, Carlitos Gracida, Nic Roldan, Carlos Gracida) advanced on Thursday with an exciting 9-8 victory over rival Piaget.
Audi is coming off its title victory in the USPA North American Cup. Last season Audi swept both 20-goal tournaments with the same lineup and hopes to keep its rich polo tradition alive.
ELG (Equine Law Group) has qualified for three tournament finals and one consolation final this season and looking for its first 20-goal title in team history.
|ELG leading scorer Tommy Biddle (4) shows winning form with a big hit downfield with Casablanca's Grant Ganzi (1) defending. Photo by Scott Fisher|
"Now we go back to the drawing board and figure it out," Biddle said. "Nic is probably the most talented player down here. On any given day he is as talented as anybody in the world. They got Carlos who is a smart player, he has been there and done it, so we are going to have to come up with a game plan and get ready for them."
"I think we just do what we do best and make them play our game," said ELG team captain Avery Chapman.
That's exactly what ELG's balanced attack did against Casablanca, jumping on them early in the second chukker and never letting them back in the game.
The hard-hitting Biddle dominated both ends of the field, scoring a game-high seven goals including three on penalty shots. Aguero added four goals and Kampsen had two goals.
|ELG's Tommy Biddle (4) retains possession despite pressure from Casablanca's Grant Ganzi (1). Photo by Scott Fisher|
"We just took it to them and we kept our foot on them when we got on top and never let them back in," Biddle said. "This is probably the best we have played as a team in this tournament.
"We had some great passes today," Biddle said. "Just those little plays that were leaving the ball here, going there. It was a fun game to play. There's no ball hogs on this team, we all leave it for each other and all work for each other and that makes it fun."
For Casablanca, Azzaro led with five goals, Ganzi had two and Erskine scored one.
After taking an 8-4 halftime lead, ELG led by as many as eight goals (12-4) early in the fifth chukker.
"I'm happy, this is such a nice team to play with," Biddle said. "Everybody works for one another, Avery played really well, everyone played so well together."
After getting rained out Thursday afternoon, Biddle said he was concerned about a letdown.
|ELG's Tommy Biddle (4) keeps his eye on the ball with teammate Guille Aguero (2) backing him up against Casablanca's Mike Azzaro (3) and Hector Galindo (2). Photo by Scott Fisher|
"You worry after you get all fired up to play yesterday, you get all the horses ready to go and you get rained out," Biddle said. "So then you have to turn around and come back and play in the morning and hold the mentality together."
Much like Audi, ELG's foursome has played together and been friends for years.
"The idea in any game is to win so if you have a chance to jump on them and score a few goals early it helps," Kampsen said. "We started quickly and tried not to lose our momentum. We tried to foul less today. We reduced our fouls and our mistakes and kept playing in our system.
"Win or lose, we have a fun team," Kampsen said. "No one is looking at the other guy and pointing fingers. Tommy and I have been playing together for years so it's great to play with somebody who knows the ins and outs."
Chapman said that friendship and chemistry has been the key to his team's success.
|ELG's Avery Chapman (1) goes for the hit with teammate Tommy Biddle (4) looking on and Casablanca's Grant Ganzi (1), Mike Azzaro (3) and Hector Galindo (2) in the chase pack. Photo by Scott Fisher|
"Tommy is right," Chapman said. "If you play with people you know and play with your friends it takes the psychological pressure off of playing with people who are understanding if you make a mistake. You also have that advantage of people who know your game, know how you play, know your strengths and weaknesses and adjust for that."
Chapman, who has been playing for 24 years including 17 in South Florida, started playing with his ELG teammates more than fifteen years ago.
"That makes a big difference," Chapman said. "We were just getting stronger and stronger in the game. Eventually, we were running up and down the field and they were not. Overall, we were a strong team on the field."
Six teams started the two-week tournament play in two divisions. Audi, Casablanca and Palm Beach Equine were in the West bracket and KIG, ELG and Piaget were in the East bracket.
Chapman and several other players have enjoyed the 2013 season at Grand Champions.
|Casablanca's Sugar Erskine (4) drives downfield for a sixth chukker late goal. Photo by Scott Fisher|
"They have done a great job at Grand Champions, promoting polo and allowing players to bring their game and their horses along, allowing patrons to develop their game and get involved in a higher level of polo," Chapman said. "They really should be commended for their efforts because it is clearly visible.
"This is the most competitive polo Wellington has seen in the fall, maybe forever," Chapman said.
On Saturday, the Grand Champions Boutique and retail manager Jennifer Guinan and her staff will be at the game for all your early holiday shopping needs.
Fans, players and families will also be treated to refreshments and asado sandwiches prepared by Cilantro's owner Herman Moreira.
GRAND CHAMPIONS FALL SCHEDULE
Nov. 23, Saturday USPA National 20-Goal Tournament Final, Audi vs. ELG, 3 p.m.
Nov. 24, Sunday Turkey Trot Juniors Tournament, 11 a.m.
Nov. 30, Saturday, The Legends of Polo, 1 p.m. and International Cup, Team USA vs. Chile, 3 p.m.