Three is good, but four is better. That’s the attitude this year’s women’s polo team is taking toward their already impressive season.
“We’re not happy just winning three titles,” said head coach David Eldredge ’81.
The women are this year’s favorite for the national title, and for good reason. Despite losing former All-American Melissa Riggs ’02 to the real world, the women’s team looks as strong as ever. With three titles under her belt, senior Taylor McLean looks to lead the women to their fourth title.
“Taylor is healthy,” said Eldredge. “She’s striving to win the fourth title.”
McLean was denied the honor of All-American to the shock of her coach and team, but, as she said “I got the trophy I wanted.”
Playing with a herniated disk, McLean displayed exceptional vigor and helped the women to their third title with nine goals in three chukkers against Texas A&M. Stepping in when Riggs pulled herself out after the first chukker, McLean pulled the team on her back and led the Red to the title. McLean would be the first Cornell rider to have a four-peat if the team wins the national title.
McLean showed what her stuff was made of when Riggs went abroad last fall.
“Taylor has been the guts of the team,” said Eldredge.
Riding alongside McLean is junior Marissa Bianchi, who is looking for her third title. She has been gaining a lot of confidence over the years and is looking to just put her game out on the field with a cavalier “Bring it on!” attitude.
Ithaca local and polo legacy Harriet Antczak has stepped up her play, and according to Eldredge is “more than ready” to join the squad.
“They’re not as flashy,” said Eldredge, “but just as devastating.”
Eldredge has high hopes for his team, and feels the confidence brewing at Oxley.
“It’s not going to be easy; we won’t be resting on our laurels,” said Eldredge. “But they’re good and they know it. There isn’t a game they can’t win… They’re doing things the other teams aren’t even dreaming of.”
The girls have already gotten off to a great start with a 4-0 record.
The men have also put on an impressive show, amassing a 5-0 starting record. With a crushing defeat of Skidmore this past Friday (36-6), the Red has demonstrated just how much talent there is.
“Last year they had no clue of expectations,” said Eldredge. “We went out and put on our best not knowing what we could do, and the guys exceeded all expectations.”
While they may not be national favorites, the title is well within their reach. Eldredge has no illusions about his team. With juniors Senter Johnson and Jeff Markle leading the squad, the men’s chances are very real. The third spot isn’t closed, but will most likely be filled by seniors Jacob LeClair or Darren James.
“Both Jeff and Senter understand what they have to, and can do,” said Eldredge. “They’re a force to be reckoned with.”
Last year the team struggled closing out and finishing the games. Losing several close games in the last few minutes of the last chukker, the men let their weakness show through. Not this year, says Eldredge.
“The first two games we had been behind, but made a comeback and won the game,” said Eldredge. “That never happened last year, and the maturity is the difference.”
National favorites and defending champs UVA and Colorado State pose the greatest threats to the title.
“They’re realistically going to be a contender,” said Eldredge. “We’ll be right there if the top dog stumbles, at least number three.”
“If they can do it, then I’m going to take them on that road,” said Eldredge.
Archived article by Josh Dormont