Coming off losses, the Cornell polo teams rebounded to produce victories this weekend: the women notched a 16-14 win over Southern Pennsylvania Polo on Friday, and the men clobbered Connecticut 29-11 on Saturday.
On a night when the women’s team welcomed back former players Molly Buck ’05 and Harriet Antczak ’05 – both national champions as members of the Red, now playing for Southern Pennsylvania-it was Cornell’s current players who stole the show with a thrilling win in double overtime.
Because of travel complications for one of Southern Pennsylvania’s players, Cornell was forced to donate a player-junior Monica Ganley in the first half and senior Morgan O’Brien in the second – to their opponent, forcing the match to play more like an exhibition. Head coach David Eldredge ’81 had the pleasure of instructing both sides.
“It was fun for me to coach both the teams. It is always nice to catch up with the former players,” Eldredge said.
Despite the congenial semblance, the match was highly competitive, with numerous lead changes and continuous back and forth action. The Southern Pennsylvania players, regardless of their Cornell ties, did not back down at the hands of their alma mater.
“They are a very competitive group,” said junior Julie Nicholson. “It was a tough match, but it really prepared us for similar situations against tough competition.”
With eight seconds left to go and the match tied, Nicholson, who recorded nine goals, had a chance to put the game away with a 15-yard foul shot, but was unable to convert the opportunity as the ball sailed wide right.
“Julie has been extremely good in her foul shooting,” Eldredge said. “She said she got distracted, but she knows what she needs to do. Should that situation come up again, she knows what to do.”
That situation did, in fact, come up only a few minutes later in the second overtime shootout – this time Nicholson knocked it in. After consecutive misses by Southern Pennsylvania, Ganley knocked in her shot to secure the Red’s win.
“An overtime is designed for pressure. We kept our concentration and demonstrated we are ready for that situation,” Nicholson said.
Eldredge’s confidence in Nicholson remains sky high and she will continue to be the lead foul shooter for the Red.
“I have no issues with her taking the shots,” Eldredge said. “She has just been on all semester and is beginning to hit a level in her own mind that is really helping the rest of the team.”
On the men’s side Cornell turned some early Connecticut fouls into a quick 3-0 lead and never looked back.
“We never lost the momentum we had from the first ten seconds,” said sophomore Brian Fairclough. “That set the tone for the rest of the game.”
Fairclough was relentless all night long, continually finding creative ways to generate scoring chances. In the middle of the third chukker, as he was blocked from a clear path by a defender, Fairclough artfully knocked the ball between the legs of his opponent’s horse before maneuvering his own horse into position to tap home the goal.
“Those [plays] are the types of things that make Brian such a great offensive player,” said Eldredge. “He sees those openings better than anyone. He has the vision to see plays like that.”
Throughout the game, it looked as though Fairclough and senior Stan Feldman, to a lesser extent, could score at will. Fairclough had 15 goals after the third before sitting out the final chukker.
“I wanted to play, I always want to play,” Fairclough said. “But basically I just want to win.”
Not only did the Red win, it sent a message to the Huskies, who will be its toughest competition at the Eastern Regional championships.
“[The win] really puts us in a confident position, they walked away deflated,” Eldredge said. “We wanted to make a statement to the UConn team: you have played us tough, but this is what we are like now.”
Archived article by Patrick Blakemore
Sun Staff Writer