Riding into the home stretch of its season, the temptation for the men’s polo team to start shifting its focus to the upcoming playoffs builds with each game. Further, with a crucial momentum-building contest at Virginia, one of the Red’s chief rivals for the national championship, next week, the urge to look past this weekend is all the greater.
However, Cornell must first deal with the second half of its home-and-away series with the Valley Forge Military Academy, as the Cadets travel to Oxley tomorrow night.
“I wouldn’t say that we’re looking past [Valley Forge],” explained polo coach David Eldredge ’81, “but we are definitely looking forward to the Virginia game.”
In its two previous meetings with the Red, Valley Forge has been relatively competitive, reaching double digits in scoring each time.
“It should be a fun game. They are a talented enough group to move up and down the hall without problems,” said Eldredge about the upcoming opponent. However, he quickly added that, “they don’t have enough talent, though, to really take on our guys.”
Last Friday against VFMA, Cornell grabbed an early lead, but the Cadets kept the game respectable before finally falling 19-14. The Red was led by senior Senter Johnson’s 10 goals, while junior Nick Grew and freshman Stan Feldman added six and three scores, respectively.
Meanwhile, senior Jeff Markle, a usual starter for the squad, took the game off to rest the right thumb he had injured in the game against Virginia the prior week. However, after having practiced all week, Markle should be ready to resume his typical role in the game tomorrow.
With his team completely healthy, Eldredge is looking forward to the VFMA game to see if the Red can put the skills they have been practicing to use.
“The game should really be a good chance to [do] what we’ve been practicing,” explained the coach.
Many of the improvements the team has been working on are directly related to its game against UVA two weeks ago in which the Red was barely able to eke out a 19-18 overtime win. In that victory, Cornell played much of the game sluggishly below its peak level of performance.
“We were a little flat-footed in that game,” explained Eldredge. “We need to step things up at Virginia next week and be closer to the top of our game.”
To do this, the Red has been working on many individual skills throughout this week, such as having Johnson step up his pace and increasing Grew’s stroke quickness.
Further, Eldredge hopes to see if Grew, whose play improved with each chukker during the UVA game, will be able to start games off at the skill level he played at towards the end of that game.
Altogether, though, Eldredge is pleased with how his team is playing and practicing.
“I feel that, with the way we’ve been practicing, I am happier with them now than with a few weeks ago,” said the coach. “Also, the win against Virginia was a huge confidence boost. And, if we can beat them when we’re not on top of our games, we can only imagine what we can do when we’re playing our best.”
Archived article by Scott Reich