Cornell polo was off to the races last weekend as the men’s and women’s team each led by six points after their first chukker. The women (5-1) would go on to beat Skidmore Polo Club 16-3 at home on Friday, while the men (4-2) could not hold their lead and lost to Roger Williams 17-16 in a shootout at home on Saturday.
Head coach of both teams David Eldredge said the women’s team had worked on improving their start after having spotted their opponent an early lead in previous weeks.
“When they came out on the field they were pretty well geared up,” Eldredge said.
Senior captain Anna Winslow agreed that Cornell had a strong start. Winslow added that the horses themselves are variables in a polo game’s outcome.
“We had the best horse in the string in the first chukker, which helped us to outscore them early,” Winslow said. “We also had good teamwork and communication starting off.”
Cornell added on in the second chukker and led 13-2 at the half. With a large lead, Eldredge made the decision to pull Winslow and give an opportunity to other players.
“We had a very strong lead at halftime,” Eldredge said. “I wanted to give sophomore Hannah Noyes some game time, rest Anna and give senior Claire Stieg more time.”
The Red’s three goals allowed is the fewest all season. Eldredge praised his team’s defensive fundamentals.
“They were very spot on with their defensive rotation and how they [made] their play[s],” Eldredge said.
A 13-2 halftime score evolved into a 16-3 final. Eldredge credits his team’s defense for holding Skidmore. He was satisfied with how his team played the second half but acknowledged the dynamics of Winslow’s offensive presence; he said pulling Winslow is akin to “pulling Kevin Durant or Carmelo Anthony”.
The men’s team also had a game last weekend. Like the women a day earlier, the men rode a fundamentally sound start to an early advantage.
“We had a good first half,” said junior captain Ignacio Masias.“We were spread out and making our plays.”
Despite being up big early, Cornell was well aware Roger Williams was capable of coming back into the game. The Hawks only founded a polo program this year, but Eldredge was well aware of its players’ reputations.
“We knew they were a very experienced team from what they’ve done in high school,” he said.
Indeed, a six-goal lead pried open in the first chukker and maintained in the second chukker began to slip away.
“They had a really strong third chukker,” Masias said.“Our horses were tired and we weren’t separating well. They are a very strong team.”
Eldredge gives credit to the Hawks for dragging themselves back into the game.
“They made an adjustment defensively to help shut down Ignacio,” Eldredge said. “We didn’t have our best game. They got back into the game; credit to them.”
After a Roger Williams onslaught, Cornell nursed a one-goal lead into the fourth chukker. The game’s ultimate outcome was to be ill fated. However, the Red showed its staying power by slowing the Hawks’ momentum in the fourth chukker and making the game close.
“We made some adjustments to slow down their offensive game,” Eldredge said.
“It was an intense last minute of the game.”
Looking ahead, the Bill Fields Tournament is taking place this weekend. Collegiate polo teams from across the country will compete at Cornell’s home arena. Eldredge believes his men and women are ready.
“I’m pleased where both teams are,” Eldredge said.