For the second time in two years, the Cornell women’s polo team won the national championship. Seeded first overall in the national tournament hosted by the UConn, Cornell defeated Cal Poly along with Texas A&M en route to its remarkable 15th USPA Intercollegiate National Title. The men’s team also traveled to nationals after a surprisingly dominant season, but lost to the UVA in a tough semifinal matchup.
As the No. 1 overall seed, Cornell drew No. 4 Cal Poly in the semifinal and defeated them by a score of 18-10, in what was an impressive Wednesday tune-up match before the finals. Senior Anna Winslow tallied 11 goals for the Red, and junior Emma Eldredge added four. Texas A&M’s shootout victory over UVA Wednesday afternoon set up a Saturday meeting between the Red and the Aggies for the title.
After a few days of rest, Cornell was back in action on Saturday. The Red looked fresh and jumped out to an early lead, closing the first chukker up, 4-2. After a back-and-forth second, Cornell took a 7-5 lead into the half. Texas A&M came back in the third, though, and a four goal swing gave the Aggies a critical 10-8 advantage going into the decisive chukker. With all eyes on Storrs, Connecticut, the Red rallied and put up five straight goals to open the period.
“Composure,” said head coach David Eldredge ’81 when asked what made the difference going into the fourth. “We spoke [between chukkers] about their focus on our game plan and their execution.”
It certainly paid off. The Aggies got one back late in the fourth, but Cornell held on for the 13-11 victory. Seniors Winslow and Elena Wicker led the way in scoring with six goals apiece.
Cornell did have high expectations for the season in defending its title, but the team’s coach was still quite proud of the Red’s accomplishment and the way in which the women went about it.
“The women set their goal and achieved it with sportsmanship and honor,” Eldridge said. “I’m very proud of their composure and dedication to their challenge… Their mental toughness was evident throughout the whole year.”
The Cornell men, coming off of a regional title, faced off against UVA on Thursday night in the national semifinal but were unable to close the Cavaliers out in the fourth chukker, losing 13-10 when all was said and done. The Red led, 10-8, after three chukkers, but in a similar turn of events to the women’s championship, UVA rallied for five straight.
Eldredge, also the men’s coach, felt that the Red had its fair share of bad luck in the final chukker.
“We couldn’t buy a bounce of the ball,” Eldredge said. “You have to have some good luck to win along with skill.”
Still, his team’s defiance of all odds throughout the year left him extremely proud.
“The men exceeded expectations and blew my mind in what they accomplished this year,” he said. “Literally, they had half the experience of their opponents, but because of their dedication and belief in themselves and their coach, they succeeded … It was kind of awe inspiring.”
The men will look to make it all the way next season, while the women have their sights set on a three-peat.