Cornell’s Oxley Equestrian center provided the ponies for last Friday’s men’s polo match against the Toronto Polo Club — senior Jeff Markle provided the rest. Leading the Red with nine goals, Markle stole the show as Cornell went on to win 22-9.
Playing in the number two position for the Red, Markle’s role as playmaker has been instrumental to Cornell’s success all year. His ability to dominate play in the center of the field allows teammates to fit comfortably into their own roles. Senior Senter Johnson especially thrives off the opportunities created by Markle, which give him the freedom to focus on scoring.
“Jeff has firmly come into his own and is very secure as to where he is right now as a player,” said head coach David Eldredge ’81. “He knows this is his team. He’s got command of it and I’m loving it.”
Coming off the momentum of a 21-19 victory over Virginia, the Red looked dominant, maintaining a lead throughout the game. In addition to Markle’s nine goals, Johnson scored six, junior Nick Grew added five and freshman Stan Feldman had one, with the ponies also kicking in a goal for the Red.
The competitiveness of the Toronto Polo Club made the game a valuable tune up for Cornell as the team nears postseason play.
“I wanted to have club teams come in and challenge us so that going into nationals we’re in top form,” said Eldredge. “It was an excellent game from that standpoint because they really needed to work to put it all together to get it done.”
The women found themselves facing off against the same Toronto club the following night, a mixed team with two men and one woman. It is one of the only teams to have beaten the women’s team in the last few years. Unfortunately for the Red, they continued their streak, narrowly beating the women 14-13.
“I expected this to be a very tight game and it was,” said Eldredge. “It was a tremendous game for the girls’ because they got to go out there and play against some really good talent and really improve themselves.”
Cornell came out slowly in the first half, down 4-3 after the first chukker. By halftime Toronto had extended its lead to 8-5. The Red, in typical second-half form, came storming back to take a one goal lead, 11-10, at the end of the third chukker. However, Cornell could not capitalize on several late opportunities in the fourth, losing by a final score of 14-13.
Senior Marissa Bianchi, despite having an off day from the penalty line, had five goals, while fellow senior Harriet Antczak scored three and classmate Molly Buck added two. Cornell was also awarded 3 goals from number one penalties (penalties committed that prevented a goal).
However, Buck’s two goals gave no indication of her impressive defensive performance in shutting down Toronto’s number two player, who was rated at a five-goal handicap. Normally such a player would dominate a collegiate game, yet Buck’s smothering defense kept him off balance throughout the contest.
“Molly stepped up and played so well,” said Eldredge. “I can’t emphasize enough how well she played in this game.”
Overall, Eldredge was not disappointed with his team’s performance in the loss, and feels that it may prove more valuable for them in the long run.
“They’re not used to losing and they hate it. They absolutely hate it,” said Eldredge. “From my standpoint as a coach, I need them to have that anger and that hunger going into the tournaments.”
Archived article by Paul Testa