There was a perceptible buzz inside Oxley Equestrian Center Friday night as the women’s polo team faced off against the University of Virginia in its first real test of the season. However, the largest Oxley crowd of the season was treated to a substandard performance by the lady riders, whose 17-10 victory was marked by sloppy and inconsistent play.
“It was a good wakeup call,” said head coach David Eldredge ’81. “This match was going to tell us where we stand with things. Right at the moment, we’re not sharp.”
The Red (14-1) broke out of the gate slowly. After junior Taylor McLean scored the game’s first goal just under one minute into the game, Virginia responded with three consecutive scores to put Cornell in an early 3-1 hole. The Red rallied to finish the first chukker with the match tied at four.
“We were really pumped up to start the game, but we still were a little bit slow off the mark,” commented senior captain Melissa Riggs, who led all scorers with eight goals.
The Red took a 7-5 lead going to the half on three consecutive scores by Riggs. Cornell missed a chance to make the half-time lead even bigger when both Riggs and McLean failed to convert on good scoring chances from 30 yards out in the waning seconds of the second chukker.
The riders finally regained a familiar rhythm in the fourth chukker, when the lady Cavaliers tired. Cornell opened the chukker with six straight goals to open up a game high lead of 17-9. McLean, who had six goals on the game, tallied three of the six Red goals in that run.
“We were able to keep going because the girls are in great shape, plus we do have a talented squad,” said Eldredge of the fourth chukker, which saw the Red outscore Virginia 6-2. “You can only out-hustle so much before talent takes over.”
The match was extremely physical, with numerous fouls called through the first three chukkers. The constant stoppages of play prevented the Red from attaining a consistent pace of play.
“The game was choppy and tight, and the umpires had to call a lot of [fouls],” said Riggs.
Fiona Seager, who led the Virginia squad with five goals, committed several fouls, including so many boarding penalties in the first chukker that the officials were forced to increase the severity of the resulting penalty shot from a four to a three.
The physical brand of play will prepare the Red for what it can expect to face for the remainder of the season, including possibly seeing Virginia again.
Said Eldredge: “They’re going to be a tough squad in nationals and in regionals, we’re looking forward to getting a rematch against them.”
Archived article by Owen Bochner