It is not often that teams break in the middle of the play-offs to play one last exhibition game before the championships. Cornell’s polo teams, both ranked No. 1 in the country, will do just that, however, as both squads will compete in one last warm-up game before going into the national tournament at Virginia next week.
Play will open this weekend as the women take on a talented team fielded by the Maryland Polo Club at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Oxley. After two very convincing victories in the Regional tournament held in Ithaca two weeks ago, the women appear primed to make their run at a fifth consecutive national title.
However, the Maryland team, based out of Butler, M.D., should offer Cornell quite a challenge, giving them a last opportunity to prefect their skills heading into next weeks nationals.
“Maryland should give us pretty heavy competition,” said coach David Eldredge ’81. “The game should sharpen us up before nationals and give us a last chance to get things in order. We could lose and we could win. They should pose quite a challenge for us.”
Although unsure about the outcome of this week’s game against the very tough non-collegiate team, Eldredge is still very confident about his riders’ chances at Virginia.
“The women are in pretty good shape. They are where they should be,” he said. Meanwhile, Cornell’s men’s team is also coming off an impressive pair of victories at the Regional playoffs held on its home turf two weeks ago. The men, too, will get a shot at a talented team from the Maryland Polo Club in their contest scheduled for 8:15 PM Saturday night.
The Red will primarily use the game to check that all its pieces are in place for next week’s competition.
“The team will be very good,” Eldredge said. “They should test some of our weaknesses.”
Specifically, the Red hopes to see improvement in finishing scoring opportunities around opponents’ goals, which it has not been doing as effectively as it wanted in its last few games. Cornell has also focused on practicing its penalty shots. How effective the Red are in taking advantage of those opportunities could very well determine its success as nationals.
Commenting about the importance of making these shots, Eldredge said, “They are one of the keys to the tournament. We’ve really been working trying to solidify our foul shooting.”
Confidence in the team’s chances to bring home a national title is still high, though it appears that the riders will have a tougher time of doing so than the women. To win the title, the men will probably have to go through both Connecticut and Virginia, two teams that have played the Red evenly at times this year.
“The men feel good. We wish there was more distance between us and the other teams, but we’re feeling good,” Eldredge said.
Archived article by Scott Reich
Sun Staff Writer