Three weeks ago, the Cornell men’s polo team (4-0) cruised to a 20-6 victory against Connecticut in Ithaca. However, as the Red travels to take on the Huskies in a rematch at 8:15 tonight, head coach David Eldredge ’81 expects a much closer game.
“We blew them out at home,” said Eldredge, “but they were still experimenting with the starting lineup then. I expect a lot tougher game. It should be close and they could knock us off.”
In their first meeting against Connecticut, the surprising veteran-like play of inexperienced junior Nick Grew helped the Red grab an early lead and build it throughout the game. Unable to find the right mix of players on the field, the Huskies never found a solution to the Cornell attack, as the Red outscored them in every single chukker.
Acknowledging that Connecticut has the talent to keep up with Cornell, Eldredge stressed that the key to the game for the Red will be to keep their focus. More specifically, Cornell must avoid getting bogged down in the slow pace of play consistent with the Huskies’ ball-control offense.
“We need to keep spread out,” explained Eldredge about Cornell’s more open and running offensive attack. “We can’t get caught up playing their game.”
Further, the Red must also adhere to the overall strategy it has been focusing on in practice. The team has been working on improving Grew’s defensive positioning to allow senior standouts Jeff Markle and Senter Johnson to be more aggressive on offense.
Coming into the game against Connecticut, the men will definitely have momentum on their side, coming off a 26-6 trouncing of Purdue last weekend. Johnson dominated play while outscoring Purdue by nine goals all by himself.
Cornell’s dominating performance also allowed Eldredge to give his first substitute, freshman Stan Feldman, some valuable playing time at the top level. Feldman played well in the second half, tallying two goals in his limited amount of playing time.
“He played a couple of really good chukkers,” commented Eldredge about Feldman’s play. “He’s improving by the week and, in the long run, will be an important factor for us.”
Meanwhile, riding high after an impressive 26-13 victory last Sunday at Connecticut, the Cornell women’s polo team (3-1) will hit the road again, as it takes on Skidmore in Saratoga Springs tonight at 8:15.
An inexperienced team, the Thouroughbreds should not be too difficult for Cornell to handle.
“They’re pretty weak and young,” said Eldredge about the opponents. “They’re not going to put up much of a fight.”
In fact, Eldredge feels confident enough about this game to rest starting lineup mainstay junior Molly Buck. Instead, junior Lindsay Sheer, one of the girls competing for the team’s first alternate spot, will start the game for Cornell.
The biggest challenge for the Red should be adjusting to Skidmore’s small arena, which is only two-thirds the size of Oxley Equestrian Center.
“It should make the game a little bit more of a challenge,” described Eldredge about the Thouroughbreds home field advantage. “But we’ll get on it pretty easy.”
Last week against Connecticut, the Red extended a 10-6 halftime lead, as the offense exploded in the third chukker. Junior Marisa Bianchi scored eight of Cornell’s 10 goals in that chukker on her way to a team-high 14 goals.
That road victory against the Huskies reveals much about how much Cornell has already improved early in the season. In the first meeting between these two teams, the Red had as much as it could handle while earning a 13-7 victory in a hard fought game. Last week, however, the Red took control from the start and never looked back.
“The finishing is the big difference between now and where we were. We didn’t finish well in the first game,” commented Eldredge about the team’s improvement.
“I was quite surprised to be able to beat them like that. It shows what this team can do.”
Archived article by Scott Reich