Coming close to victory, it was a successful national tournament this past week for the Cornell polo teams. The women’s team was named national runner-ups on Sunday as the squad finished second to No. 1 Virginia, with a final score of 17-13. The men’s team lost to Virginia, who went on to win the national championship in the national semi-finals, 28-10. In the first round, the women defeated California Poly Tech, 20-12, and the men redeemed an earlier season loss against SMU, winning 28-19.
The faceoff against UVA proved to be a fast paced and back-and-forth game. The first chukker ended in a 3-3 tie, with both teams adding three goals by the half to make the score 6-6.
“Going into the second half when we were keeping the game very close, within two or three points, they were making a few more mistakes and we were starting to push them out of their comfort zone and away from the plays they would usually make,” said senior captain Ali Hoffman.
The Cavaliers were able to score a three-point goal in the middle of the chukker, putting Cornell at a four point deficit heading into the fourth chukker. During the fourth Virginia came out quickly, grabbing a six goal lead. The women answered back within three goals, but there was not enough time, and Virginia scored once more in the last few moments of the game.
“We finished strong, which is an awesome feeling,” said senior Amanda Stern. “It’s pretty bittersweet knowing it was my last game, but it was a really good game.”
Hoffman expressed similar sentiments that the team had fought hard to the end.
“We realized there was so little time left and we weren’t out of it completely at that point. We really rallied together and gave them a pretty good run for it at the end,” she said.
With the high level of competition, the game became very quick and aggressive, posing difficulties for Cornell.
“The team was very fast and physical, so I think a lot of the time our attention was taken to make sure they weren’t getting that hit on the ball that would send it down the arena for them,” Hoffman said. “It was a different type of game and I think it took a little while for us to adjust to it.”
However, the women posed more of a challenge to Virginia than the Cavaliers expected.
“I think they came out with the expectation that having played us earlier in the semester we weren’t really going to pose much of a challenge, but we really fought it out,” Stern said.
The women had started the path to the championship on Friday, facing off against Cal Poly Tech. The Red dominated on the scoreboard the entire game, continually increasing its lead with every chukker played. However, the Mustangs playing style was different than Cornell normally faced.
“The game itself was just a different style of play, it was a bit scrappier than I’m used to,” Stern said. “It wasn’t as open as it wasn’t moving as fast as the UVA game.”
“Their entire game plan was pretty much to stay glued to us,” Hoffman said. “It was difficult for Kailey and I to work around that because it was like a shadow moving with us, we were getting caught on them and it definitely slowed down the play a lot.”
The men represented Cornell’s first appearance in the tournament, playing on Wednesday afternoon against SMU. The Red never lost the lead it held from the end of the first chukker, keeping the Mustangs at bay by four goals or more the entire game. At the half, the men were up by nine goals, 15-6. During the fourth chukker, Cornell’s lead got to as high as 13 goals before SMU climbed back to lose by nine. The men had previously lost to SMU by two goals earlier in the season.
“It was definitely a redemption,” said junior captain Branden Van Loon. “The team really wanted it and we felt like we needed to prove we deserved to be at nationals. The guys were definitely ready to go out hard.”
On Friday, the men took the field again against Virginia. Although the end result was a loss, it was a more successful effort than the previous season matchup against UVA, according to Van Loon.
“As overall the team was working better, we had a more complete game,” he said. “It was a good building off point for next year.”