With a 12-4 overall record and wins over every team it has played this season excluding No. 1 Virginia, the men’s polo team has already locked up a spot in this year’s USPA National Intercollegiate Championships, which will take place at the Oxley Equestrian Center from April 21-24.
However, that’s not to say Cornell has nothing to play for this weekend, as it hosts Skidmore, Kemptville and the University of Connecticut in the Northeast regional tournament.
The Red, currently riding a seven-game winning streak, will be looking to capture its ninth straight regional title and potentially secure a No. 2 seed at Nationals. The team has not lost since Nov. 21, 2010 — a 19-10 defeat at the hands of powerhouse UVA in the championship game of the Bill Field Invitational.
Cornell will take on Skidmore tonight at 5:30 p.m., with the winner awaiting either UConn or Kemptville in the finals on Sunday at 11 a.m.
The Red has faced the Thoroughbreds twice this season, winning both contests by a combined margin of 61-7.
“Skidmore is a very young program; they’ve graduated a few players and [they’re] a team that we’ve played this year and we’ve beaten pretty handily,” said senior captain Max Constant. “The good thing about Skidmore is that we will have an opportunity for our other players to have a chance to play, which is great to see what our team is going to look like moving forward and in terms of next year.”
Assuming the Red takes care of business against the Thoroughbreds, according to Constant, his team will have the opportunity to make life interesting for its presumed opponent on Sunday, UConn.
“If we beat up on UConn this weekend, not only do I firmly believe that we’ll get No. 2 in the country, but I also think that they are going to have a hard time making a good case for bringing UConn to Nationals,” he said.
The Huskies got the better of the Red the last time these two teams squared off in Ithaca, with UConn eking out a narrow, 18-17, victory on Halloween night. Cornell would avenge this defeat exactly one week later, notching a convincing 12-goal win on the Huskies’ home turf in Storrs, Conn.
That being said, there remains added incentive for the Red to capture the season series against its perennial rival, especially in front of the home crowd at Oxley, where Cornell boats an 8-3 record.
“Even though we’ve beaten [UConn], we still mark their game on the schedule every year, and we do look forward to playing them because we know that they’re going to give us a good, tough game every time,” Constant said.
This weekend is of particular significance for Constant — the Red’s lone regular senior starter, who has single-handedly outscored the opposing team in three of Cornell’s matches this season.
“I’m personally taking this game particularly seriously because it is the last time that I’m going to be playing in the regional tournament ... so when it comes to a team like UConn that we’ve had such a colorful history with, I really want to take this game as seriously as possible and come out on top and have some good momentum moving into Nationals,” he said.
According to the team captain, Cornell has come a long way this year in terms of intra-squad cohesiveness, and maintains that this is reason to be optimistic about the Red’s chances going forward.
“I really like the way that [sophomores] Connor [Pardell] and Branden [Van Loon] are playing, and I have the utmost confidence in them and their abilities as teammates to come to the table and execute when it really matters,” Constant said. “At this point in the season really it’s the last go; we’ve been working ... since August to get to this point. This is the time that it actually does matter, this is the time that we really need to be serious about winning.”