Alegria Edges Flight Options In USPA Piaget Gold Cup Opener

Mar 10th, 2014 | By | Category: English Polo News

10 March 2014

Alejandro Novillo Astrada (4) of Flight Options approaches the ball preparing to pass to brother and teammate Eduardo Novillo Astrada (2). Photo by Scott Fisher

WELLINGTON, FL-March 7, 2014—-Flight Options rallied from a scoreless fourth chukker but ran out of time in its USPA Piaget Gold Cup opener against Alegria Friday at International Polo Club.

Flight Options (Melissa Ganzi, Eduardo Novillo Astrada, Miguel Novillo Astrada, Alejandro Novillo Astrada) came within two goals late in the sixth chukker but lost an 11-9 decision to Alegria (Julian Mannix, Hilario Ulloa, Polito Pieres, Clemente Zavaleta).

It was the only tournament game on opening day of the second crown jewel of U.S. polo’s Triple Crown.

Miguel Novillo Astrada led Flight Options scoring with five goals including three on penalty shots. Brothers Eduardo Novillo Astrada and Alejandro Novillo Astrada each added two goals.

Miguel Novillo Astrada (3) of Flight Options backs the ball past Alegria’s Julian Mannix (1). Photo by Scott Fisher

“We had a bad chukker in the fourth and I think that was the game,” said Miguel Novillo Astrada. “I have to watch the tape and see what was the mistake, if we played bad or they played really well.

“We came back again in the last chukker and had chances to score but we missed a couple of opportunities and they scored on the other side,” Astrada said. “Alegria is a very good team. The four of them play well. It is a tough team.”

Pieres, who replaced an injured Mariano Aguerre in the lineup, led Alegria scoring with a game-high six goals. Mannix had three goals and Ulloa scored two.

Alejandro Novillo Astrada (4) of Flight Options gets ready to back the ball away from Alegria defender Polito Pieres (3). Photo by Scott Fisher

The evenly-balanced teams battled throughout the first half. The teams tied four times including 6-6 at halftime.

Alegria jumped out quickly in the fourth chukker. Alegria won the throw-in and Mannix drove downfield to score the go-ahead goal with 5:43 remaining for a 7-6 lead.

Flight Options team captain Melissa Ganzi (1) defends Alegria’s Julian Mannix (1). Photo by Scott Fisher

Alegria scored four unanswered goals in the fourth quarter to take a 10-6 lead.

Behind Eduardo Novillo Astrada’s ball-hawking defense, Flight Options started reeling Alegria in but could get no closer than two goals.

“We had a bad fourth chukker, other than that the team played well,” said Flight Options coach Joey Casey. “Everything was going great. We played really well the first half. We were winning the throw-ins and our knock-ins were good. Then the fourth chukker just happened. They were up 5-0 on the throw-ins, they scored four and we scored none.

Flight Options’ Miguel Novillo Astrada (3) takes off as teammate Eduardo Novillo Astrada (2) gets ready to back the ball downfield. Photo by Scott Fisher

“In those last two chukkers we tried to get back to the way we played in the first half,” Casey said. “We needed to get tougher on the throw-ins. We just needed to get back to our game. Alegria is a great team. They should be in the top two.”

Grand Champions Polo Club’s PoloNow Network continued its cutting-edge technology offering halftime replays for the Flight Options team in the players’ tent.

PoloNow Network producer Mike Fereira goes over the first half instant replay with Flight Options players Miguel Novillo Astrada and Melissa Ganzi. Photo by Scott Fisher

It was the first time the technology was used during halftime of an actual high goal game. Casey and his players were able to quickly go over broken plays and penalties on the team review before returning to the field for the second half.

“It was helpful,” Casey said. “It’s a good asset for you to have at your tent because sometimes the players will see it one way on the field and when you look at it on the film you can see whether they were wrong or right.”

Casey watched most of the first half on the replay screen.

Flight Options’ Alejandro Novillo Astrada (4) reaches for the ball despite defensive pressure from Alegria’s Hilario Ulloa (2). Photo by Scott Fisher

“I saw some fouls I didn’t see because I’m too far away,” Casey said. “I just wanted to see some of the plays I couldn’t see that were sketchy.”

The Grand Champions Polo Club-based pro team will try and bounce back next Thursday against Audi (Marc Ganzi, Gonzalito Pieres, Rodrigo Andrade, Gonzalo del Tour) which opens the tournament on Saturday against Orchard Hill (Steve Van Andel, Santiago Chavanne, Pablo MacDonough, Matias MacDonough) at 10 a.m.

Flight Options, one of the season’s new polo team sponsors, is the world’s second largest private aviation fleet that flies throughout the United States, Canada, northern Mexico, Cabo San Lucas and the Bahamas.

Alejandro Novillo Astrada (4) of Flight Options takes the ball downfield. Photo by Scott Fisher

Piaget has been the title sponsor since the tournament made IPC its home in 2007. The Piaget Gold Cup was first played in 1974 at Oak Brook Polo Club in Illinois.

For game recaps, news, features and photos of Grand Champions Polo Club-related events, go to

Game video can also be seen at PoloNow Network at

Flight Options’ Miguel Novillo Astrada (3) takes off downfield after the ball. Photo by Scott Fisher


MARCH 7-23: USPA Piaget Gold Cup: Saturday, Audi vs. Orchard Hill, 10 a.m.; MARCH 13, Audi vs. Flight Options, 3 p.m.; MARCH 16, Orchard Hill vs. Flight Options, noon; Audi vs. Alegria, 3 p.m.; MARCH 19, Semifinals, 1, 3 p.m.; MARCH 20, Butler Handicap Semifinals, 1, 3 p.m.; MARCH 23, Butler Handicap Final, noon; USPA Piaget Gold Cup Final, 3 p.m.

MARCH 26-APRIL 20: 110th Maserati U.S. Open Polo Championships


MARCH: Madelon Bourdieu Memorial (5-goal); The Limited Edition 8-Goal Series; The Top Pony 12-Goal Series; March 15-31, Santa Rita Abierto (16 goals); March 23-31, March 23-31, $50,000 National 12-Goal Tournament.

APRIL: Las Acacias (5-goal); USPA Association Cup (8- goal); Museum of Polo & Hall of Fame Challenge Cup (12-goal); John T. Oxley Memorial Trophy (16-goal).


SATURDAY: 8-Goal, Equuleus vs. Far Niente, 10:30 a.m.; 5-Goal, SLS Jets vs. Grand Champions, 1 p.m.; 12-Goal, Buckhead vs. Pony Express, 3 p.m. featured game at Grand Champions.

SUNDAY: 5-Goal, Patagones Azul vs. Elegante Polo, 10 a.m.; Patagones Blue vs. SLS Jets, noon; 12-Goal, Faraway vs. Hawk Hill, 1 p.m.; Casablanca vs. The Villages, 1:30 p.m.


SUNDAY: Great Futures Celebrity Polo Match, 10 a.m., benefitting the Neil S. Hirsch Family Boys & Girls Club of Wellington.

MARCH 17: Buzz Welker Memorial Tournament

APRIL 4-5: Fifth annual Gay Polo League International Tournament

APRIL 8-12: Women’s Championship Tournament

Source: Phelps Media Group