Top-Seed Goose Creek Wins Molina Cup Opener; Action Continues Monday With Two Games
By Arianna Delin, Sharon Robb for Grand Champions Polo ClubThe law of averages is catching up to Goose Creek.
After losing several 20-goal games by one or two goals or in overtime the first two months of the winter season, Goose Creek opened the Molina Cup with an exciting 8-7 victory over Beverly Equestrian on Opening Day of the inaugural Molina Cup.
Maureen Brennan of Goose Creek defending Inaki Laprida.
In front of a good crowd and worldwide ChukkerTV audience at windy Grand Champions Polo Club, the talented foursome of Maureen Brennan, 1, Tomas Garcia del Rio, 8, and father and son Mariano, 7, and Peke Gonzalez, 4, turned back upset-minded Beverly Equestrian (Bill Ballhaus, 0, Carlucho Arellano, 5, Magoo Laprida, 8, Inaki Laprida, 7) to spoil its 20-goal debut.
"It didn't feel good going into the sixth almost tied, I thought, oh no, not again," Brennan said. "It feels good to win here no matter what, especially after our down streak.
"In those games we weren't losing by five or six. It was the same deal, win all the way through and then blow it at the very end. Today was good for us."
Peke Gonzalez of Goose Greek going for the defensive bump.Goose Creek started off strong, shutting out Beverly Equestrian in the opening chukker, 2-0, and taking a 5-2 halftime lead and 7-2 advantage midway through the fourth chukker.
"When we get the ball and move it, that's when we feel better," Brennan said. "It's when we're at midfield and we stop it, that's when it breaks down a little. That's what feels good for our team, just the movement."
Beverly Equestrian staged a comeback with three goals by Arellano, Ballhaus and Inaki Laprida to trail by only two, 7-5. Arellano added another goal with 2:08 left in the sixth chukker to cut the lead to one.
Father and son Peke and Mariano Gonzalez of Goose Creek working together.
Goose Creek didn't unravel in the final chukker with Del Rio hitting a nice neck shot to Brennan, who scored what turned out to be the winning goalat the 5:09 mark after Inaki Laprida scored with1:27 left in the game.
"That was a very important goal, she scored with a good pass from Tomas," Mariano Gonzalez said. "I hit a long back shot, Tomas jumped on it and passed a perfect long shot.
"We were so unlucky that he passed a perfect cut shot to Maureen again and the ball was going at a perfect angle for her to finish it but it hit a divot and went to the left. She got it but it was without any angle and we would have been up by three."
Goose Creek teammates Mariano Gonzalez and Tomas Garcia del Rio setting up last chukker play.
Goose Creek turned on the defense and moved the ball eating up the clock to protect its lead.
"All those last moves were all by getting it and hitting it and maybe a bad luck or bad bounce here and there," Brennan said.
Goose Creek got balanced scoring from its lineup. Mariano Gonzalez scored a team-high three goals followed by Brennan and Peke Gonzalez each with two and del Rio with one.
Magoo Laprida of Beverly Equestrian follows his shot with Tomas Garcia del Rio defending."We have been playing well and most of the games we were up by one or two or three goals in the last chukker and we lose the games," Mariano Gonzalez said. "Today we were ahead. But it is the typical thing like Tomas hitting a perfect neck shot and it hits a divot and it goes out. That littledifference is least luck in the end. Inside you are going, give me a break, just one break.
"We fought hard. The other team is a very good team. The brothers have been playing together forever. We are happy we were able to finish ahead."
Goose Creek's horses were coming off a 10-day rest.
Maureen Brennan of Goose Creek defends Bill Ballhaus of Beverly Equestrian."We are happy to win," del Rio said. "We've been feeling we have been playing very well but losing some very close games. It's good to win one in the end, instead of losing it.
"The team played well the whole game," del Rio said. "I think we dominated the whole game and then we had a last chukker and a half where again there was a one-goal difference and too close for what the game had been. We should have been maybe two, three goals up at the end instead of just one. The truth is we always feel the team played well. We knew we had nothing to change with the team except finish the games, just play a better sixth chukker. We did it today and hopefully we keep on going."
Arellano scored a game-high four goals, all on penalty conversions. Ballhaus and the Laprida brothers each had one goal.
Tomas Garcia del Rio of Goose Creek drags the ball downfield behind defenders Inaki and Magoo Laprida."It means a lot to win a game by one goal," said Peke Gonzalez, who recently turned 18. "With all the bad luck we had in the other tournaments, it's nice to come back and win. Maureen made two great goals, very important ones. One in the beginning, nice to start with the confidence and winning the last goal. Tomas and my dad played really well, that was great. They were a very good team and it was a very important game to win. It's awesome."
The tournament continues on Monday with two games. Beverly Equestrian hopes to rebound against Valiente (Rob Jornayvaz, Pablo Spinacci, Diego Cavanagh, Roberto Zedda) at Valiente Farm at 3 p.m. and Dutta Corp (Timmy Dutta, Costi Caset, Sebastian Merlos, Hugo Barabucci) plays Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Jesse Bray) at 4:30 p.m.at Grand Champions.
"It's nice that there is 20-goal in March instead of being done the last day of February," said Brennan, who will remain through April and participate in the April 5-8 WCT Finals hosted by Grand Champions.
Polo at Grand Champions Polo Club is attracting good crowds.Photos by ChukkerTVThe Molina Cup, a first-year 20-goal tournament, comes on the heels of the successful and historical 20-goal Sterling Cup won by Travieso.
The two-week Molina Cup features a star-studded lineup of some of the world's top players from six different countries.
The 120-year-old handcrafted silver Molina Cup trophy was given to Marc Ganzi by Alfredo Molina, Chairman of the Phoenix-based Molina Group and owner of Molina Fine Jewelers.
Ganzi was competing in the Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships this past fall and admired Molina's work with the winning trophy presented to two-time defending champion Aspen Valley Polo Club (Melissa Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Nic Roldan) at the Scottsdale event.
The tournament is being live-streamed on ChukkerTV, worldwide leaders in polo broadcasting.
Grand Champions Polo Club caters to men, women and youth polo players at all levels. Its' expert staff can customize a complete playing experience including horses, pros and certified umpires in addition to lessons and practice sessions as part of its' Polo On Demand program, the only polo club in the U.S. to offer the unique program.
The Polo School at Grand Champions, a 501c3 organization, is dedicated to teaching polo to all ages, particularly grass roots youth. Its mission is to provide individuals opportunities in polo. The Polo School operates in Wellington January through June and September through November.