Cornell’s polo teams were unable to secure victories heading into this week’s Eastern Regional championships. The women’s team experienced back-to-back losses as they fell in matches to the Toronto Polo Club and UConn. The men also came up empty in their lone match against Toronto.
In Ithaca on Friday night, the women’s team competed for three chukkers before injuries and inexperience led to an eventual 14-9 loss to Toronto. In the second half, head coach David Eldredge ’81 was forced to pull junior Ariel Katz when she re-aggravated a knee injury – the Red’s one goal deficit was quickly turned into five.
“Ariel has so much experience. [When she went out], it really showed how much she is a key part of the equation,” Eldredge said.
Katz’s injury was not serious enough to hold her out of the second match on Sunday, as she returned to the lineup to face the Huskies in Storrs, Conn. Cornell held an early lead before UConn went ahead 4-3 after the first chukker – it would never relinquish that lead.
The second period proved to be the game changer, as UConn extended its lead to six goals.
“The second chukker was an aberration,” Eldredge said. “They rode the one horse that was stronger than all of the rest.”
Usually, Cornell would reap the benefits of that strong horse in the exchange before the final chukker, but because UConn’s ponies had participated in two matches earlier in the weekend, they were all rather fatigued in the later stages of the game.
“Our girls could tell the horses were tired,” Eldredge said. “The horse situation usually balances out, but we know we only lost by a goal when the horses were on a even plane.”
The women’s team will look forward to a potential rematch with UConn during regionals, which begin this Friday.
“Before we didn’t think we could compete with them,” Eldredge said after the 21-14 loss. “Now we feel we have a shot at them at regionals.”
On the men’s side, in a game ridden with penalties, Toronto’s superb foul shooting proved to be the difference as the Red lost 23-14.
Toronto’s A.J. Sharpstein was surgical from the foul lines, scoring eight of his 12 goals from the charity stripes and continually making the Red pay for their mishaps.
The game seemed like it might get out of hand early in the second half when a free goal, because of a dangerous riding penalty, gave Toronto a 13-6 lead. The Red would not go away, however, and was able to come within two goals midway through the final chukker.
“We were able to attack them and cover up all their players,” Eldredge said. “Early on we were not doing that, and it was a huge problem.”
After the lead was narrowed, tempers began to flair and there were several confrontations between members of the opposing teams. The Red was never able to settle back into the game after the commotion and Toronto dominated the final four minutes of the chukker – Cornell surrendered the game’s final seven goals.
“It is the nature of a very competitive game that there will be a lot of fouls,” Eldredge said. “It really had an effect on our emotions. We need to learn how to retain our focus for the entire match.”
Archived article by Patrick Blakemore
Sun Staff Writer