In a world outside Cornell prelims, 80 percent is a pretty good showing, and the Cornell men’s and women’s polo teams now sport identical 4-1 records after winning their respective games this past weekend. The women handed the University of Connecticut (4-1) its first loss of the season, doubling up 22-11 in Ithaca on Friday. The men defeated UConn (2-3), 28-13, at home on Saturday and Skidmore Polo Club, 21-14, in Saratoga Springs on Sunday.
Friday’s game was unusual for the women in that they had faced UConn in Storrs only five days earlier. Senior captain Anna Winslow said she believes being familiar with their rival’s game was an advantage coming in.
“I think it helped that we played UConn last weekend, because we knew what to expect from them and how to be successful against them,” she said. “The fact that we did well against them in their home arena gave us confidence in our ability to beat them at home.”
Although enjoying home field advantage, Cornell played UConn to a 3-3 draw in the first chukker and led 8-6 at the half. Head coach of both teams David Eldredge explained one of his players “came out flat.” He said a late two-point goal by UConn made the 8-6 halftime score misleading.
“We had started to pull away in the second chukker,” he said.
As he has earlier this season, Eldredge used the halftime break to refocus and reinvigorate his team.
“At halftime, we made a couple of adjustments to how UConn was playing us,” he said.
Winslow said that during the second half, the team was able to foul less, which had an impact on the score and gameplay in general.
“I think part of the reason the margin increased so much during the second half was because we really started to get a positive momentum going,” she said. “We fouled a little more than we usually do in the first half and we played a bit cleaner in the second, allowing us to pull away from them.”
After Friday’s game, Eldredge turned his attention to the men’s team. Last week he predicted that the men’s team would quickly rebound from its first loss of the season to Virginia. However, he could not have predicted that the Red would lead 20-5 at halftime against UConn.
“I was quite surprised,” Eldredge said.
Junior captain Ignacio Masias has been emphasizing for the past few weeks that Cornell is a new team that is still learning the game and each other. He said he is very proud of his team’s performance in the first two chukkers against UConn.
“For the first time this season, for the first half of the game, we reached our potential,” he said. “[Sophomore] Dan Shaw had a really good game … [and sophomore] Ryan [Saul] was very solid. … Dan and I had the freedom to score.”
The Red, up by 15 at the half, was not able to extend its lead the rest of the game. Eldredge and Masias believe being ahead by a large amount led to more conservative, reserved play in the second half.
“It’s hard to maintain that aggressiveness,” Masias said.
Cornell finished out the weekend by playing at Skidmore, a venue unfamiliar to Masias and the other starters. That being said, momentum from the UConn win the previous day allowed the Red to score the game’s first four goals and they never trailed in the contest.
“We played really well overall,” Masias said. “They gave us a really strong fight. … It was definitely a closer game than a couple of weeks ago.”
After two well-executed victories this weekend, Masias said he is “happily surprised” with Cornell’s development this season. He has been embracing his newfound role as team leader.
“I’ve been focusing a lot of my energy to help Dan and Ryan,” he said.