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Piaget Ready To Defend Title In Sunday's Butler Handicap Final

Piaget Ready To Defend Title In Sunday's Butler Handicap Final After Thrilling 11-10 Win Over Orchard Hill

Piaget 10-goaler Miguel Astrada goes for the big hit with defender Matias MacDonough of Orchard Hill bearing down and Piaget teammate Nacho Badiola backing him up.

WELLINGTON, FL-March 23, 2013---Piaget rallied from a four-goal deficit to defeat Orchard Hill, 11-10, in the final seconds of the semifinals to advance into Sunday's Butler Handicap final at International Polo Club Palm Beach.

Grand Champions Polo Club-based Piaget, the 2012 Butler Handicap champion, will meet ERG, 12-7 winners over Audi in Thursday's other semifinal, at 12 noon for the title.

Piaget's 10-goalers Miguel Astrada and Sapo Caset, 23-year-old Nacho Badiola and team captain Melissa Ganzi turned in their finest performance of the 26 high-goal season and the timing couldn't be more perfect.

"The timing is amazing because we really want to go into the U.S. Open playing our best polo and we want to do well," Ganzi said. "When we put the team together we thought we were one of the stronger teams so it's nice to be playing up to our potential.

With a few lineup adjustments, Piaget looked like the team they have always looked like on paper.

"Changing the lineup was a strategic structural plan," Ganzi said.

After Caset scored the tying goal on a penalty shot with 1:41 left, Caset scored the winning goal on a breakaway and very fast pony with 30 seconds remaining in regulation time to give Piaget a thrilling victory.

"I was thinking I have to score," Caset said. "I remember the one I missed against Lechuza on the first day of the Gold Cup. It was more or less the same. So today I said I am making this one."

Piaget had a balanced scoring attack. Caset led the team with five goals. Astrada and Badiola each had three goals. Orchard Hill's Matias MacDonough scored a game-high seven goals.

Piaget 10-goaler Sapo Caset on a breakaway toward goal.

"We're very happy, the team finally played well today," Piaget coach Joey Casey said. "That is the best game we have had. Finally, we hit the ball. We had one bad chukker and fixed it at halftime. They all played well today. The team's horses went well which is really good. It was a good win."  

Caset returned to the lineup after missing Sunday's stadium game against ERG with the flu. With a makeshift lineup of two 5-goalers, Piaget nearly knocked off ERG, losing a one-goal decision, 7-6.

Caset was still feeling the after-effects of the flu in the first two chukkers but it didn't seem to hamper his playing ability.

"We wanted to play good," Caset said. "We changed the positions. I played more in front and I was more open. I felt more free. I think this change is good for the team.

"I am still a little bit sick," Caset said. "I didn't have air the first two chukkers, I couldn't breathe. I got a little tired early in the first two chukkers because it was a tough game."

Badiola, making his IPC 26-goal debut this season, had a confidence-building MVP performance playing at the back with lightning quickness and some outstanding defensive plays keeping Orchard Hill out of several scoring opportunities.

"He played great today, he was awesome, the whole team played well," Casey said. "Melissa played good, Sapo played his best game today and Miguel played awesome. If we stay with this game plan I think we will do really well."

Casey said the biggest adjustment was moving Badiola at back giving Astrada confidence to go forward with Sapo running.

Piaget 6-goaler Nacho Badiola stealing the ball, one of several outstanding defensive plays he had during the game.

"I feel much better playing back," Badiola said. "From the back I can see a little bit more of what goes on. It's easier for me to look from outside. Today we played much better, we were organized and playing a better system. Today was a good day for our confidence. It was a good game because we won and played better."

Piaget came up big in the final two chukkers, outscoring Orchard Hill, 4-2 and 3-1.

"This game was very important for us to play well to get the team going," Astrada said. "We tried the changes and they worked very well.

"I watched Sapo take the ball and I was keeping my fingers crossed until the ball went in," Astrada said. "Sapo did play well sick. We are trying to keep the virus in his system."

Last year Piaget, then rated 23 goals with Melissa Ganzi, Alejandro Astrada, Nic Roldan and Rodrigo Andrade, won the Butler Handicap with a 14-10 victory over Las Monjitas. Roldan was named Most Valuable Player after scoring eight goals and Roldan's gray mare, Dona, was named Best Playing Pony.


Sunday, March 24: Butler Handicap Final, Piaget vs. ERG, noon; USPA Piaget Gold Cup Final, Zacara vs. Valiente, 3 p.m.


March 21-24, Butler Handicap

March 28-April 21, 109th Maserati U.S. Open Polo Championship


WHERE: On the corner of South Shore Boulevard and Lake Worth Road, Wellington.

INFORMATION: There are great field side views for tournament action at the home base of pro teams Audi and Piaget. Everyone is welcome to watch polo in a relaxed atmosphere during the spring and fall tournament season and other special events including the International Cup, Buzz Welker Memorial Junior Tournament, Women's Championship Tournament and Gay Polo League International Tournament.