February 6, 2004

Polo Hosts Rivals UVA

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Any athletic team would dream about having two key players join its roster just prior to the most critical stretch of the season. This is true for all teams, unless, of course, that team happens to be one of your chief rivals.

Cornell’s men’s polo team will have to deal with this nightmare, as a rejuvenated University of Virginia team rides into Ithaca for a match tomorrow afternoon. The Cavaliers, who almost upset the Red earlier this season before falling 11-9, will enjoy the return of two of their best players, who were abroad for the entire first semester.

“This is a fact-finding game for us,” said head coach David Eldredge ’81. “We really don’t know how Virginia will be. They could be an entirely different team.”

The players returning to the Cavaliers’ ranks include both the third and fourth best players from last year’s national championship squad.

Besides this obstacle, the pressure on Cornell to win has already begun to mount due to a disappointing loss to the Gardnertown Polo Club last weekend. However, Eldredge believes the team has put that game behind it.

“It was an aberration last week,” he said. “I don’t expect it will happen again.”

With few games remaining before the start of Regionals, the Red will need to take advantage of every opportunity to build its confidence and regain its high level of performance before making a run at the national title.

However, Eldredge believes his players are ready.

“Its going to be a tough game for us, but [they] will be up to the challenge,” he said. “This game should be a benchmark for where we’re going.”

Predicting that the match should offer a fast-paced, high scoring style of play, Eldredge said that the key to a Red victory is for the team to maintain its style of play.

“We must play our game, not theirs, in order to be successful,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Friday evening game should also feature some nice drama, as the Cornell’s women’s team takes on a Cavaliers squad that nearly defeated the Red earlier this fall.

Also, having only played two games since break — easy victories over Yale — Virginia should offer Cornell its toughest test in this late stage of the season.

Eldredge’s main concern heading into the match is to see if the Red can break out of its usual pattern of play. Too often throughout the first half of the season, Cornell allowed opponents to stay close during the first half before delivering the knockout blow in the third chukker.

Now, the coach hopes that his team will instead create some separation right at the beginning of matches and then continue to widen the gap as the game progresses.

“We need to get a fast start and kill the other team in the first half,” described Eldredge. “It will be good for the team to see that we can do that.”

Archived article by Scott Reich