November 18, 2002

Cornell Polo Squads Struggle on Larger Ring at Virginia

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The men’s and women’s polo teams ended their weekend against Virginia with what head coach David Eldredge ’81 could only describe as a “mixed bag.” The women played to a five goal tie while the men were routed 18-2.

Senior Taylor McLean, sophomore Molly Buck, and junior Marisa Bianchi started for Cornell, while junior Harriet Antczack took over for Buck at the half.

The first three chukkers proved to be a defensive battle, with both teams going back and forth. Virginia held a two-goal lead over Cornell going into the last chukker, but the Red was able to rally for two goals and a tie. McLean scored two goals in the match, while the rest of the riders chipped in one each.

Two of the things Eldredge attributed the early breakdown to were ring size and riding issues. Virginia competes in a ring that is larger than most other playing areas. The Cornell riders also had some issues adjusting to their horses, with each finding their groove at different times of the match. Buck held the Red together during those critical points.

“Molly played very well,” said Eldredge. “She had one horse that was difficult during the second chukker and did very well in spite of it. She kept us in the game.”

Overall, Eldredge felt the match was a “wakeup call.”

“They never expected that anybody was going to hand them anything, but it rededicated a couple of them to the fact that they were going to have to go out and work for this,” said Eldredge.

In his 18 years as the coach of the Red, Eldrege can only recollect one men’s victory at Virginia. Once again, ring size appears to be the key issue.

“It really is a different game than what they are used to playing,” said Eldrege. “We’ve always struggled with men’s teams going down to Virginia and being competitive.”

Senior Darren James, and juniors Senter Johnson and Jeff Markle played the match for Cornell, with James and Johnson each recording goals. Virginia, the 2002 national champion, started two of its returning players. Markle also had some issues with his horse during the first chukker. Cornell went into the second chukker down by five goals, and ended the half facing a 10-1 deficit.

The second half was not much better for the Red. UVA scored another five goals during the third chukker, and an additional three during the last. Cornell would score once more during the final minutes of the match. While Eldrege views the loss as the result of a weak start, he also sees the weekend’s result as an opportunity for growth.

“The first half wasn’t a good half for us, but we did learn a number of things,” said Eldredge.

Much of what Cornell took away from the match regards strategy. Eldredge and his players were able to notice many weaknesses in Virginia’s play, and the team hopes to exploit these kinks later in the season.

“We knew they were the team to beat, and they proved it,” said Eldredge. “We’ll have a better chance against them when we get into a smaller ring.”

The chance may come this weekend, as Virginia travels to Ithaca for the Field Tournament. If both teams win their respective brackets, they will meet again, this time in the tournament final.

Archived article by Matt Janiga