Heading into one of its biggest weekends of the year, the men’s polo team knew that it would have plenty of challenges to deal with from a tough University of Virginia squad. However, the Red did not think that merely getting to the game at the right time would be one of them. The Cavaliers’ coach had scheduled to play the visiting Red on Friday evening, while Cornell coach David Eldredge ’81 had the game marked down for Saturday.
Discovering the scheduling discrepancy just barely in time, the Red was forced to scramble to get down to UVA in time for the game. Nevertheless, Cornell displayed no ill effect from the hurried trip, as it used a dominant second chukker to defeat the Cavaliers, 21-19, and secure the top ranking going into the national tournament.
“It was quite the game,” said Eldredge. “We had put pressure on ourselves since we need to win to secure that number one spot.”
Possibly a little rusty from the eight-hour car ride down, the Red started slow, as it ended the first chukker down 6-3 to the Cavaliers.
However, the second chukker marked a tremendous change in momentum, as the Red showed why it is a favorite going into the national tournament. Using 6-0 and 3-0 runs, Cornell outscored the Cavaliers, 9-3, in the period to take a 12-9 lead going into the half.
“It was just huge,” Eldredge said about his team’s offensive outburst in the second chukker. “[Virginia] was in shell shock at the end of that.”
The Red continued their strong play into the second half, never giving up the lead on its way to the 21-19 victory. Senior Senter Johnson led the team with 11 goals, while senior Jeff Markle and junior Nick Grew tallied five and three scores, respectively. Cornell also earned two goals due to UVA penalties.
“All the guys played really well,” Eldredge said.
Eldredge was also very pleased with Grew’s performance due to his recent struggles at the beginning of games.
“We’ve worked on getting Nick into the mindset has to be in at the beginning of games,” he said. “That was Nick’s best game he’s played right from the get-go.”
The play of seniors Markle and Johnson also gave the coach a lot of optimism for the upcoming tournament. Markle played a “heady game,” according to Eldredge, drawing five penalties which Johnson converted all into goals on the ensuing penalty shots.
The penalty shots made the difference in the game as Cornell took advantage of all their chances while UVA blew three of their opportunities. Eldredge is confident that his team is more than ready to make its charge for the national championship, noting that the victory not only gives a “tremendous confidence boost, but also that Virginia was really shaken and we’ve put doubt into their minds.”
The Cavaliers will likely be the Red’s chief rival for the national championship, as they are in line to draw the No. 2 ranking in the tournament.
Meanwhile, the women’s squad also traveled down to Virginia, though they were without senior Harriet Antczak, who was forced to stay in Ithaca due to prior commitments. Junior Lindsey Scheer took over Antczak’s responsibilities in the starting lineup.
Cornell controlled the pace of play — which was slowed due to injured horses — for most of the game. However, the talented Virginia squad stuck close to the Red, keeping the game tied at 5-5 at halftime and 8-8 after three chukkers.
Finally, in the fourth, Cornell was able to put some distance between it and its opponents before clinching the 13-12 victory. Senior Marisa Bianchi led the Red with 10 goals.
“It was a really back and forth game, though we were never really worried about it,” Eldredge said.
He also said that Scheer did a good job for filling in for Antczak, having never before experienced that level of play. However, it was obvious that “[Bianchi and senior Molly Buck] missed Harriet.”
“When they play together it is like of body of one,” Eldredge said.
Archived article by Scott Reich