The men’s and women’s polo teams surmounted all the obstacles, answered all the challenges, and they did it against the most highly touted competition in the nation.
Both squads tore through the Bill Field Invitational on East Hill this weekend en route to the tournament crown.
The lady riders began the affair in fine form dismantling Ivy League foe Yale by a 36-1 count. The experienced Red exploited the younger Bulldogs finding open field throughout the contest. Cornell’s terrific triumvirate — freshman Marissa Bianchi, sophomore Taylor McLean and junior Liz Antczak — started and ended the game. Each scored in double-digits, as the Red rattled off 26 unanswered tallies at one point.
Bianchi led the club with 13 goals, a performance that was indicative of her stellar performance throughout the tournament. She notched four consecutive goals in the opening chukker.
The triumph earned the Red a date with long-time rival UConn on Friday. Cornell has dominated the season series, collecting two landslide victories. To the surprise of the on lookers at Oxley Equestrian center, the Huskies played a spirited first chukker , drawing even with the Red, 3-3.
Head coach David Eldredge ’81 was not unsettled though.
“We knew [our] girls were overzealous with fouls and we just needed to slow it down,” the coach observed.
And when you’re as good as Eldredge and his squad, you really do not need to be concerned very often.
The lady riders left their coach with little to be troubled by once the second chukker began as they opened it with a stretch of 17 unanswered goals. It would take UConn until the beginning of the final stanza to get back on the board. In the end, Cornell cruised to a 22-4 win.
All considered it was another dominating performance for the Red who controlled the tempo throughout the entire contest.
Bianchi again raised eyebrows, including those of her coach.
“Marissa came out and played some of her best polo. I’m very pleased with her effort,” lauded Eldredge.
The rookie was lifted in the final chukker to preserve her for the finals against Virginia. Her spot was assumed by senior Ali Tracey who has posted several solid performances in limit playing time. Friday would be no exception. Tracey continues to add invaluable depth to a squad priming for yet another drive toward a national crown.
Play along the endwalls also improved for the Red, who avoided the rushed offensive tempo that has thwarted many of their close-up scoring chances.
Yesterday morning, the Red met Colorado State in the title game. To no great surprise the Rams earned a berth in the final after edging Virginia, in what was a tight contest until the final chukker.
Eldredge said that he was a bit “leery” facing the squad, who have been unfamiliar to Cornell in recent history. The Rams also sport the highly versatile Erika Gandomcar. The Red’s defense though would rise to the occasion silencing Gandomcar for a good portion of the match.
The squads exchanged pairs of scores in the first, before Cornell routed the Rams by an eight to two margin in the second chukker. The Red capitalized on sloppy play by Colorado State, converting on five out of eight penalty shoots. Gandomcar would not be stopped in the third chukker though as she spearheaded a comeback that saw the Rams draw to within 11-8. In the final chukker the Red was able to hold on, capping a 16-4 victory to take the tournament championship.
Spirits would be just as high in the men’s camp by the end of the weekend.
The men’s team opened the tournament with a contest against perennial powerhouse Colorado State. The game was particularly meaningful for senior Jeff Embow, who defected from Ft. Collins last year after guiding the Rams to a national title. It was his first engagement with his old mates, and Embow would not disappoint.
Colorado State came out strong and remained relentless for the duration of the game. Nevertheless Eldredge credits the Red’s teamwork for the victory.
“Jeff played very well. He got tremendous support from [junior] Renato Periera and [senior] Ben McClintic,” the coach said.
The only thing that prevented Cornell from running away with the game was its submission to the Ram’s hectic run & gun pace. Once the Red settled into its more structured, methodical style it was able to strike victory.
The triumph placed Cornell in yesterday’s title match with the highly-touted Cavaliers. The Red entered the game confident, having recently doubled up UVA, 10-5 in Charlottesville.
Cornell began sloppily, committing five penalties that would result in four UVA goals. The Red found itself behind by a 5-4 margin after the opening chukker.
As with the lady riders, Eldredge would not be discomforted. Attributing the fouls to “being caught up in passion,” he remarked that the Cornell men outplayed their opponents on the field.
After another Virginia strike off a penalty opened the second chukker, the Red had a renaissance, and scored four straight goals. Following the streak the clubs traded goals. At half-time, Cornell held a 9-7 advantage.
Periera keyed a defensive tightening in the second half and McClintic provided his usual intangibles, drawing defenders, affording Embow opportunity to collect his eight goals.
In the final chukker, UVA drew, but the Red fended off the Cavaliers’ challenge, riding to an 18-15 victory. A tribute to the Red’s offensive tenacity in front was their three points off No. 1 fouls.
The competition may have provided a glimpse into the national tournament. And as expected Cornell rose above.
“We set a precedent with us coming out on top. Hopefully, we can maintain that,” said Eldredge.
Archived article by Gary Schueller