Though most students are oblivious, Cornell is actually an athletic powerhouse. Maybe not in all sports, but at least this is the case with the men’s and women’s polo teams.
The Red dominated last season, as the women’s squad won the national championship, while the men’s side settled for second place after falling just one goal short of completing the sweep.
Now, Cornell looks to continue its winning ways into this year as both teams prepare to kick off their respective seasons against Conneticut this weekend in Ithaca.
Beginning a run at fifth-straight national championship, the women will take on the Huskies at 7:30 tonight. Meanwhile, the men will begin their season at 8:15 tomorrow night, as they battle the Conneticut men’s team.
Head coach David Eldredge ’81 is looking foward to these opening games. On the women’s side, he expects the Red will have to deal with a competitve Huskie team that is growing in experience.
“They were a young team last year, but they are getting better,” said Eldredge. “I expect them to be a tough team for us.”
Meanwhile, even with the loss of All-American Taylor McLean ’03, Eldredge feels pretty confident about the team he will be fielding, as All-East player Marisa Bianchi will be joined by Harriett Antczak and Molly Buck in sharing the majority of the playing time.
“They all have experience and have won championships,” commented Eldredge about his players.
In fact, Eldredge lists this experience as one of the main strengths for the team.
“They know how to come from behind. They don’t get rattled … they don’t panic,” commented Eldredge.
However, since McLean was on the field for the majority of last year, these three players have had little time to play together during games.
“They are not familiar with one another. They have to find out who’s going to do what on the field,” said Eldredge. “They have weak communication, but its getting better.”
Nevertheless, Eldredge is confident about his team, predicting that “it’ll be a competitve game, but we’ll win.”
On the men’s side, though he is not as willing to make the same prediction — he expects a much closer game. Conneticut will bring a strong men’s team into Oxley with a couple key returning players, as well as a few quality transfer players.
“Our men will have a tougher time,” said Eldredge. “Conneticut will be very tough.”
The Cornell team should be ready, though, with two of the top players in the nation, seniors Senter Johnson and Jeff Markle, returning to the team this year. Joining this pair will be junior Nick Grew, who is not new to the Red, but lacks the experience of his counterparts.
“Nick is getting used to the speed at that level,” said Eldredge.
In fact, the team has spent much of the preseason working on getting Grew into the flow with the other two players, as well as having the three of them gel as team.
This still lingers, however, as the biggest question mark heading into tomorrow’s game. Unsure how ready Grew will be for the fast pace of play, Eldredge commented that, “We don’t know how he’ll react in the games.”
Meanwhile, like the women’s team, the experience of the other two players — both integral parts of last year’s runner-up squad — should be a strong point for the team.
“They can come from behind with their experience,” said Eldredge. “They are not fazed by deficits.”
Last year against Conneticut, the men fell behind by three goals in the second chukker, but rallied in the final two chukkers to win, 17-12. Markle and Johnson combined to score 16 of Cornell’s 17 goals in that game.
Though the spring season is more important for both the men’s and women’s polo teams, the fall is still important, as the squads get to see where they are while also working to get all their pieces into place.
This makes Eldredge excited about these upcoming games.
“We’ll see where we are related to everyone else in the country,” he said.
Archived article by Scott Reich