By KEITH BOLLT
When you are the defending national champions, an early season overtime loss is a wake-up call.
The Cornell women’s polo team (1-1) fell, 13-12, to the Maryland Polo Club in overtime on Sunday. The Red’s men’s team (2-0) defeated the Skidmore Polo Club 23-13 on Saturday. Both games took place at Cornell’s Oxley Equestrian Center in East Ithaca.
David Eldredge, the head coach of both teams, said the final score of the women’s game was a representative outcome of how both teams played.
“We made mistakes that were uncharacteristic of us,” he said.
The Lady Red got off on the wrong hoof and did not have their best overall game.
“We didn’t finish as well around the goal,” Eldredge said. “They were more efficient in scoring from a corner to the goal (Maryland was five for six and Cornell was two for seven).”
“After having one starter graduate and another (junior Emma Eldredge) go abroad this fall, this was really our first high speed game of the season with the new starting lineup,” said senior Anna Winslow. “This game pushed us enough to show us the areas we need to work on going into the hardest weekend of the fall season.”
The final score notwithstanding, Eldredge pointed to some positives from the match. He said he was impressed by the performance of senior Claire Stieg.
“Claire played a very consistent, very solid game,” he said. “She deserves a mention.”
Eldredge said he also believes that for his two returning starters, a close loss will refocus their efforts for the upcoming game against Virginia, the team they narrowly beat for the national title. He said the Red “expect more out of ourselves.”
“I was a little disappointed in our sloppiness,” he said. “… I can be picky harsh, we are hoping for a repeat.”
On the men’s side, Cornell is basking in the warm carnelian-tinted sun that often occupies Ithaca at this time of year. On Saturday, the Red fell behind early and trailed at the end of the first of four chukkers.
“We started off very flat,” Eldredge said. “[Skidmore was] ready to play.”
In the last three chukkers of the game, the Red adjusted to their opponent’s level. Lead by junior Ignacio Masias, Cornell methodically erased an early three-goal deficit.
“From the start of the second chukker [we improved] defensively and offensively,” Eldredge said. “[Masias] was very hot. The defense stepped up. They made plays to free him up”.
Masias, one of only four 2015 Men’s All Stars nationwide, scored 21 goals against the Thoroughbreds. He said his high goal total was not the result of a premeditated game plan, but rather a testament to Cornell’s developing cohesiveness.
“We have a new team,” he said. “We have been improving every single week… building team communication. It’s a matter of time.”
Although they enjoyed different levels of success last weekend, Eldredge is optimistic at the prospects of both of his teams. On the women’s side, Eldredge said it is alright to endure a wake-up game at this point in the season. Winslow agrees that Sunday’s game need not be foreboding of the season to come.
“I’m happy with where we are at the start of the season,” she said. “We have lots of time to figure each other out before we have our fall tournament in November. I don’t think the loss against Maryland foreshadows how we will do for the rest of the season.”
The men’s team have developed and gelled faster than their coach anticipated.
“[They] are ahead of where I was envisioning them,” Eldredge said.
Masias shares his coach’s sentiments and is looking forward the season ahead.
“I have high expectations,” he said.