Although the scoreboard said the men’s and women’s polo teams had both suffered big losses against Texas Tech and UConn, respectively, the Red came out of the Bill Field Invitational Tournament with a different attitude. Both teams recorded wins over Skidmore and finished in third place in the tournament, giving the Red some measure of success after the weekend.
“That’s why a scoreboard doesn’t tell the story of a game,” said head coach Dave Eldredge ’81.
The men’s team came out and secured a stirring 21-7 victory over Skidmore last Wednesday in the first day of play.
“Skidmore represented the first time this season we came out against a weaker team and were able to stick to our game plan for all four chukkers,” Eldredge said. “I was very happy that we had no lapses. Even in previous games where we won by a lot, we always had periods where we would get away from our game plan, our identity, and we avoided that here.”
With the players feeling good coming off the victory, their second against Skidmore in two games, their next opponent, Texas Tech, came out of nowhere.
“Wow, they really jumped on us,” said sophomore Brian Fairclough. “We didn’t expect that punch so early. We had played like three minutes and all of a sudden it was like one breakaway after another and we were down five goals before we knew it. Then we had to play catch-up the rest of the game.”
With the Red down by 11 at half time, Eldredge delivered an important message to his players. “I told the guys we weren’t really doing anything wrong,” he said. “We were sticking to our game plan and didn’t have any melt downs, or foul trouble like we usually do when we play poorly. It was just one of those days where you just go out and play fine but just can’t make the plays when they present themselves. There was a number of times we went right by their goal and missed the same shots we’ve been making all year. It’s like missing a lay-up, it doesn’t happen often but it does happen.”
The Red came out and outscored the Red Raiders, 12-11, in the second half to bring the final to 26-16 after a late run by Texas Tech, which went on to lose a seesaw battle to UVA in the championship match.
“We really sped up our game after that first horrible chukker,” Fairclough said. “We played right with them the rest of the way. I think we proved that we’re right on par with them, and therefore UVA – who is the best team in the country – because Texas Tech almost beat them.”
The women also went into their Skidmore game looking for consistency.
“We went into it knowing we wouldn’t let them have any chance to get ahead,” said senior Morgan O’Brien. “We came out and were solid with our rotations, quicker to the plays than they were, and basically executed a lot of things we’ve been working on. The second half we got bogged down a little because the refs were calling fouls a little tighter, but overall, I think we had a really good mindset going it.”
This was an attitude the Red tried to take into its game against defending national champion UConn.
“We knew UConn is really good at hitting the ball, so we just tried to stay marked up and ride beside them,” O’Brien said. “They play really smart, though, and would stop their horses abruptly while we would keep going, crossing the line and getting called for fouls. We fouled more as the game went on and we started to get tired.”
Despite the final score of 23-6, the Red were only down six at half time, compared to 12 the last time Cornell faced off against the Huskies. UConn later took down Colorado State to take the Bill Field Invitational title.
Archived article by Cory Bennett
Sun Staff Writer