If there was any sliver of doubt that the men’s and women’s polo teams were clear favorites for the national title it’s gone. Head coach David Eldredge ’81 had his troops in perhaps their best form of the season as both teams were crowned champions at the end of the Eastern Regionals.
If the women were looking for some confidence heading into a date with Virginia in the finals, it certainly came in the form of an engagement with doormat, Yale. The Red mercilessly destroyed the Bulldogs by a 35-0 count on Mar. 16. In four tilts with the Ancient Eight foe, Cornell owns an awe-inspiring 116-6 advantage.
“We were pretty dominant from the get go,” Eldredge observed.
Yale has led just once in the three matches courtesy of a Kumi Smith goal to open the scoring December 2 at Oxley Equestrian Center. It spiraled downhill from there for the visitors. Cornell went on to win 24-4 in a match that saw three riders post double-digit scoring.
Freshman sensation Marissa Bianchi lit the lamp 13 times, followed by sophomore phenom Taylor McLean’s 12 goal effort and junior stalwart Liz Antczak’s 10. With the return of junior Melissa Riggs the damage was expected to get worse and it did.
The light match up provided Eldredge with a chance to play his reserves. After starting with the trio of Antczak, McLean and Riggs, the coach was able to play sophomore transfer Audrey Robertson and Bianchi.
In a renewal of one of the finest rivalries in the sport, the Red clashed with Virginia in the ensuing match. Riggs paced Cornell to an 18-13 victory on Mar. 18.
The contest marked the first time that the Cavaliers would be playing with the program’s top player.
“We were not sure what to expect. We figured we would get a tough go,” Eldredge said.
The gap between No. 1 Cornell and No. 2 Virginia appears to be widening though. The Red have escaped unscathed in three duels with the Cavaliers, including a clutch 12-9 triumph in Charlottesville, VA.
The Red built in an early lead in the game and was able to maintain it throughout. Cornell brought a nine goal lead into the final chukker and cruised to the five-goal win.
“I’m really happy with the play of the girls,” the coach praised.
The men put forth an equally convincing case bouncing Georgetown 40-7 on Mar. 17 before trumping over Virginia, 22-17 the following day. It was the riders fourth consecutive win over the Cavaliers.
The Hoyas earned the date with the Red after Purdue forfeited.
Senior Jeff Embow who has dominated the world of men’s collegiate polo needed to play just one chukker to give the Red a commanding advantage.
Following the first seven and a half minutes of polo, the scoreboard read Cornell 14, Georgetown 1.
“Jeff was very sharp,” Eldredge lauded.
As with the women, the coach optioned to play his alternates. Juniors Javier Alcover and Ryan Rapp saw time.
In the finals Cornell stuck to its original game plan for Virginia — use Embow to slow down the pace of the game.
The Red held to its methodical style and led 5-2 after the first chukker. Each side put up five goals in the second and third stanzas. After building a six goal lead in both chukkers, Cornell saw Virginia whittle the advantage down to three both times.
Overall, the effort left Eldredge satisfied.
“I’m very happy about the way we played and the way we handled them,” the coach noted.
Archived article by Gary Schueller