Playing away from Oxley arena for the first time this semester did not bode well for the men’s and women’s polo teams, as they traveled to play UVA over the weekend. The men were handed a 28-4 loss, while the women lost their match, 21-5.
The Cavaliers are nationally ranked No. 1 for both the men and women.
On Friday, the Cornell men had a very slow start, only scoring one goal in the first half — a stark comparison to Virginia’s 13. The third chukker was a no score for Cornell, while UVA added ten points to its tally. Finally, in the fourth chukker, the men were able to add three more goals to the total; however, Virginia did not let up the reins and proceeded to score five more goals.
“[The first half] wasn’t that close to be honest,” said head coach David Eldredge ’81. “They were out quicker than us. They out-anticipated us. They just totally out-played us all around. The Virginia men are just an outstanding team and they’re on a mission to repeat [the national title].”
Despite suffering a loss with such an obvious point deficit, the head coach pointed out some positives that the team took from the meeting.
“This weekend showed them why I’ve been stressing what I’ve been stressing and it makes sense to them now,” he said. “Having had this experience, now they understand and are committed to paying more attention to the things I’ve been really talking and stressing about in practice. Without this game, that point wouldn’t have been hit home.”
Though the women’s match resulted in a big loss as well, senior captain Ali Hoffman said she felt the game was more evenly matched skill-wise.
“We weren’t disappointed with our effort; we were disappointed with the outcome of our effort,” she said. “The score did not reflect how we thought we played. It was actually kind of a surprise when we looked up and saw that we had lost so significantly to a team we thought we would go in and give a pretty good match to.”
The Cornell women were out fast, scoring the first goal of the game; however, the first chukker ended, 8-2, with Virginia in the lead. In the second chukker the women were unable to score, while the Cavaliers added four more tallies. According to Eldredge, the team had many opportunities to score, but could not find the goal to complete the play.
“The second half of the first chukker, all of the sudden we couldn’t find the goal,” he said. “We had a number of plays where we were there, but we just couldn’t find the goal.”
The third chukker was the most successful for the Red, as the team managed to add three more goals and hold Virginia to just three as well. In the fourth chukker, there was a slight problem with the ponies, which led to Virginia galloping off with five goals. Senior Amanda Stern’s horse had difficulty lining up properly on the line, and the Virginia player opposite her took advantage of that, using the opportunity to score. However, Eldredge said that Cornell stopped the scoring spree once the horse was adjusted.
“When we finally got that sorted out, we shut [Virginia] out for the rest of the chukker,” he said.
Stern noticed that the playing style that Virginia used was different than what she and the team had seen before. The foreign game play threw off the Red’s mental game, according to the senior.
“We play a little more strategically,” she said. “Fouling isn’t an issue with them. We play a lot more clean. Certain plays should have been fouls that weren’t called, and we’re not used to that. When we see a foul, we’re kind of ready to hear the foul be called and move on from there, and when the foul isn’t called we’re kind of like, what? It throws you off for that split second mentally.”
Hoffman and Eldredge agreed that Cornell’s greatest struggle in this game was the team’s inability to turn opportunities into points.
“I think the loss mostly had to do with the fact that offensively we just weren’t on our game,” Hoffman said. “We weren’t finding the opportunities to actually get in there and score some points. Usually we’re a lot better about that.”
Creating scoring opportunities was not the only issue Cornell has to contend with.
“We struggled horribly on our foul shooting and couldn’t find the goal, and those games happen,” Eldredge said.
Stern summed up the game’s results, putting the final score in both a negative and positive light.
“It’s frustrating in the sense that you know you’re capable of playing a team like this,” she said. “At the same time it’s reassuring knowing you are capable of playing a team like this.”
The women have next weekend off from game play; however, the men return to action against Kentucky at the Oxley Equestrian Center on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The men said they are eager to redeem themselves after the rough loss to Virginia.
“I’m really actually looking forward to this game because they’re a really competitive team and they’re a team that will challenge us,” Eldredge said. “With the guys coming off this game against Virginia, they’re out prove themselves and prove to themselves that they can bounce back from something like that, learn from it, take it forward and have success.”
Original Author: Andrea Sielicki