November 16, 2001

Riders Vie for National Crown

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“That’s two. I want two more.”

Those were the words spoken by Taylor McLean following the women’s polo team’s victory over the University of Virginia for a second straight national title. Along with fellow All-American senior Melissa Riggs, the junior will again lead an extremely talented squad that aspires to add more hardware to its already impressive collection.

Last season saw the Cornell women sweep through all major competition on their way to their ninth overall title. They won the Bill Field Invitational tournament, the Eastern Region Tournament, and the National Tournament while compiling an outstanding overall record of 18-1-2. None of last year’s starters graduated, so head coach Dave Eldredge ’81 will again feature a lineup of Riggs, McLean, and an alternation of senior Liz Antczak and junior Marisa Bianchi.

“I feel like we are a very strong team,” said McLean, “As long as we play well, it will be a repeat.”

The addition of sophomore Molly Buck and an increased presence of sophomore Harriet Antczak will also add strength to an already dominant team. “I want to give them as much exposure as possible,” said Eldredge, “so it’s not much of a change [when they start next year.]”

Though two-time defending national champions, the Red is not content to rest on its laurels. The riders hope to continue to improve this season, if such a thing is possible.

“We hope to win [the Field Invitational], win regionals, and win nationals,” said Riggs. “Having so many who can play [well, we hope to keep] everyone involved and improving.”

“They have been beating [opponents] soundly. They want to destroy them morally,” remarked Eldredge.

Another goal for the season besides repeating as champions is to integrate the entire depth of the team into the team’s successful program.

“We hope [to] continue to learn how to work better as a team,” remarked McLean. “We’re a bigger team [than just the three starters] but we still need to work as a unit and succeed with as many players as we have.”

During this season, one can expect the women’s polo team to be dominant. Eldredge said, “My feeling is very good.”

The loss of All-American Jeff Embow ’01 will be a devastating blow to the men’s polo team. “We [will play] spoiler this year,” said coach Eldredge, whose men’s squad will feature three new starters and an abundance of youth.

Last year, the Red lost in the national semi-finals to arch rival University of Virginia, finishing the season with a 12-3-1 record overall.

“There were three teams that were very close last season–Texas A&M, UVa., and us. They could have played the national tournament three weeks in a row and had three different winners,” commented Eldredge on last season’s tight competition.

Cornell will not be as competitive this year as the team lacks a great deal of the experience it had last year. The Red does not expect to win any of the season’s major tournaments, but do hope to get a bid into the national tournament. “If we come out at .500, I’ll be extremely happy,” said Eldredge.

Last year’s starting lineup of Embow, Ben McClintic, and Renato Periera will be sorely missed, though Eldredge points to great promise in many current members of the team, such as senior Javier Alcover, who will be the team leader. Sophomores Senter Johnson and Jeff Markle join Alcover in the starting lineup.

“[Johnson and Markle] will be a major force in the years to come,” said Eldredge.

So far, the men seem to be enjoying their spoiler role, as they position themselves to be involved in serious title contention once again in the years to come.

“I’m confident that we’ll get better as the year goes on,” remarked Markle.

Archived article by Owen Bochner