Watching the women’s polo team duel Skidmore on Saturday night was almost like watching a lion hunting its prey.
After demolishing the Thouroughbreds last weekend by a 27-4 count, head coach David Eldredge ’81 opted to start a trio of reserves. Sophomores Audrey Roberts and Jen Barnas along with veteran Ali Tracey were able to bring the Red into half time leading 5-4, but with the game to close for comfort Eldredge turned the reigns over to his usual cast.
With the terrific triumvirate back in the action Cornell opened a 13-5 lead, leaving its regional foes in the rear view mirror for good.
Skidmore drew first blood, when standout Kara Welton converted on a 15-yard penalty shot.
The Red remained composed and minutes later took the lead when Tracey and Roberts notched back-to-back scores.
After the match, Roberts was excited about her first time playing at Oxley Center for the Carnellian and white.
“I was really nervous but I had a good time,” she said.
Barnas echoed the sentiment.
“I was nervous, but I had fun,” she stated.
In the second chukker, Welton continued to be a thorn in the side of the lady riders, tallying three more goals in the period.
With just over four minutes before half-time Skidmore took its first lead on Welton’s fourth score of the night.
The lady riders responded in fine fashion when newcomer Barnas found the ball, broke loose and headed toward the goal. Though she fanned on a break-in shot, Tracey picked up the drop and was able to put it over the line.
Playing along side two newcomers, Tracey, usually the most inexperienced player on the field, became the team’s leader. She helped solidify the effort for the squad and her highly vocal nature in the game, added needed communication and direction for her young teammates.
With the game tied, Barnas drew a No. 1 penalty, which awarded Cornell with a free point. That was all the scoring that would take place in the first half as the Red found it self in an uncharacteristically tight match.
It seemed as if Eldredge was letting the opponents keep close, knowing that anytime he choose he could insert his starters, who have proved to be unmatched by any competition this year.
And they dazzled once again when they entered after the intermission.
After Skidmore tied the game in the opening moments of the chukker, the Red strung together eight unanswered goals.
Junior Liz Antzcak opened the barrage with a solid effort. Walking in front she took control of the ball just in front of the goal line, and beat the defense with a beautiful backhanded tap-in.
She added two more in the closing minutes of the period to break the contest open for Cornell.
Sophomore Taylor McLean was dominant once again scoring three of the next five for the squad. Her hitting has been even stronger this year than last and with increasing confidence, she is rapidly climbing to the upper echelons of women’s polo.
Freshman Marissa Bianchi turned in another strong performance, lighting the lamp five times, including a three-goal effort in the final chukker.
With phenom Melissa Riggs and Antzcak graduating next year, the local product has put a smile on the face of Cornell polo fans who see a bright future in her and what she means to the program at large.
The men’s team had a bit of business to take care of themselves this weekend as they squared off with strong house Virginia in enemy territory Friday evening.
The Cavaliers have been touted as the top program of the country but the Red had little troubled pacing itself to a 10-5 doubling of UVA.
Senior Jeff Embow single-handedly outscored Virginia, putting up eight goals in a fine effort.
The Red had a chance to stumble early, when junior Renato Periera was paired with a unsteady horse. Yet he remained collected, and played well as Cornell finished the first half tied with the Cavaliers, 5-5.
Senior Ben McClintic, arguably the most improved player on the men’s polo team from last season, continued to provide invaluable intangibles for the Red. He drew defenders, keeping Embow open when he needed to be. His continued utility will be integral to the club’s national championship drive.
“I’m very pleased,” Eldredge said of the squad’s weekend performance.
Archived article by Gary Schueller