February 2, 2012

POLO | Women Go for Third Straight, Men Search for Consistency

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Cornell polo faces another weekend of playing teams outside its region to build up team play in preparation for later games this season. The women will face Garrison Forest at 7:30 p.m. and the men will play Westmont College on Saturday at 2 p.m., both at the Oxley Equestrian Center.Both teams have a history of winning records against their respective opponents. The women (6-3) have an overall record of 15-4-3 against Garrison Forest. The game being played tonight was scheduled earlier in the fall, but was postponed. The last meeting the men (5-4) had with Westmont was at nationals in 2009, with the Red pulling off a victory of 22-15.Garrison Forest is a high school team that competes in the interscholastic division, competing against other high school teams as well as college teams. In 2011 they won the high school national championship. According to head coach David Eldredge ’81, Garrison Forest defeated nationally ranked University of Connecticut by one point about a month ago. Cornell has a 1-1 record with UConn so far this season. Despite the fact that the Red will be going up against high school riders, that does not mean the squad will take them lightly.“As a high school team, we expect them to be a little bit more slowed down, but they’re so good and have had such success playing other college teams that that might not be the case,” said sophomore starter Kailey Eldredge.“They are a very good team, a high quality opponent who will give us quite a challenge,” David Eldredge added.Since Garrison beat UCONN, a team that Cornell will face at regionals, playing Garrison Forrest provides an indirect way to measure up against the Huskies.“It provides us with a bit of a bench mark with how we stand against University of Connecticut. It will tell us as we’re getting along to regionals,” David Eldredge said.Additionally, the game will be a chance for the women to continue what they started last weekend with a win against Southern Methodist University, as well as an opportunity to work on the little things.“We want to keep the game pretty open. We tend to get bogged down. It’s the little things we need to start focusing on as things come together,” Kailey Eldredge said.The game’s starters, according to the head coach, are Eldredge and seniors Ali Hoffman and Amanda Stern. Stern has been spending the past weeks trying to catch up to Hoffman and Eldredge after being abroad and not riding for several months.“Amanda has to catch up to speed with the other two, and its coming along. We’re very pleased with her progression there and the team has very high spirits coming off of last week’s game,” David Eldredge said.On the men’s side, sophomore Nik Feldman will be returning to game play this weekend, starting alongside junior captain Branden Van Loon. The third spot is between freshman Nick Steig and junior Connor Pardell. According to Stieg, all four of the teammates are used to rotating between different combinations.“It’s good playing around with the team and in different games we found different things worked better against teams,” Stieg said. “When’s someone’s not performing we can sub people out and still have the same amount of talent in the game.”Coming off of a loss, the team is looking to regroup and use this game to practice their mental strength and physical stamina.“Its always tough, that first game back from riding. We’ve been working a lot on our execution this week, and communication. We had a lot better practice on Tuesday,” David Eldredge said.Steig mentioned the importance of working as a team and not playing individually in the later parts of the game.“We start to slow down throughout the game and I think that as soon as we start to lose and they start to catch up, everybody starts to revert back to their individual game. We need to work on playing as a team and not playing as three individuals as soon as it starts to get difficult,” Stieg said. “Whenever they make their comeback and take the lead, we all get stressed out and panic. It’s not so much as we do in practice. It’s a mental aspect for everyone learning to deal with the pressure.”Eldredge mentioned his goals for the team this weekend and in the coming weeks so that both teams are strong as the season progresses.“For the women, it’s the continued improvement, building on what they started last week and to hopefully keep that path going upwards,” he said. “For the men it’s getting back to where we were at the end of the semester. Establishing a little better consistency for the men, that’s what we really need to do. Hopefully we’re going to be working on that and gaining some of that back.”

Original Author: Andrea Sielicki

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