Both the Cornell men’s and women’s polo teams had tremendous regular seasons, as both finished as the top collegiate squad in the nation. However, even after all their accomplishments, both teams will be unsatisfied unless they finish off what they have been working towards all season — winning a national championship.
The teams will take their first steps toward this goal today, as the hosts the Eastern Regional Championships at Oxley Equestrian Center.
On the men’s side, the tournament will use a round-robin format to decide the winner between Cornell, Michigan State and Yale. Play will begin at 7 p.m. this evening, as the Red hosts Michigan State. Over the weekend, the Spartans will take on Yale at 3 p.m. tomorrow, before the tournament culminates with the Red hosting Yale at noon on Sunday.
Having handily defeated both the Elis and Spartans this season, the Cornell squad has high expectations for the weekend’s competition.
“We’re full of confidence,” said polo head coach David Eldredge ’81. “We feel very good in relation to the others and are looking forward to this weekend.”
Also, as Yale also beat Michigan Sate earlier this season, Eldredge predicted that the Sunday game should decide the championship. The winner will receive an automatic bid into nationals at Virginia in two weeks, while the loser will have to hope for a wild card spot in the tournament.
Although the men suffered a 23-18 loss to a talented club team from Garrison that featured past Cornell polo stars, Eldredge believes his team is ready for anyone.
“They performed very well last week,” he said. “We learned a lot from that game.”
Most notably, the Red learned that it would have to improve on throw-ins after Garrison took advantage of that weakness to mount its comeback victory. However, after the team spent the past week practicing its defense of throw-ins, Eldredge believes that the team has shored up that problem.
“The team has a good attitude and fully understood the problem,” he said. “We’ve worked on it and made it a lot better.”
Differing from the men’s round-robin tournament, the women’s Eastern Regional tournament will feature a single-elimination playoff. The first semifinal, starting at 5 p.m. today, will feature Skidmore and Yale, while the second will pit Cornell against Michigan State at 1 p.m. tomorrow. The winners of these games will face each other in the championship at 10 a.m. on Sunday.
Eldredge is also high confident in the women’s team’s chances as it begins its national title defense.
“They played very well against a very tough team last week,” Eldredge said about last week’s 14-14 tie against Garrison. “We need to finish better, but we’ve had great practices … we’re playing really, really well.”