At the halfway juncture of the polo season, Cornell’s teams are gearing up for championship runs. The women are in pursuit of their sixth-straight national championship, while the men seek to avenge a two-point loss to Virginia in the title game last April.
During the fall polo season, both squads rode the learning curve. The men’s team, lacking a clearly defined leader, used a combination of inexperienced collegiate players to earn a respectable 5-4 record.
“A couple of players got some good experience. Brian [Fairclough] never played indoor and Stan Feldman got in some very important playing time,” said coach David Eldredge ’81. “We had a good fall season, they learned a lot and still were competitive. I thought the team represented themselves and the school very well.”
The women used the fall season as an opportunity to take a look at some of the younger players and sharpen the skills of its more experienced ones. Despite the womens’ 86-match winning streak being snapped and ending this season with a 4-4 overall record, there were many positives.
“The younger players got a lot of experience as the third spot had to be filled in Molly’s [Buck] absence,” said assistant coach Marisa Bianchi ’04. “It gave Lindsey [Scheer] the opportunity to improve her game and take a leadership role by helping develop and bring along the younger players.”
However, throughout the first half of the season, the Cornell polo teams exuded a quiet confidence, knowing the spring season would bring the return of its premier players. Absent from the men’s team were its top three starters from last season’s team — All-Americans Jeff Markle ’05 and Senter Johnson ’05 and Nick Grew ’05. Together, they form a mighty triumverate, drastically changing how other teams perceive the Red.
“Other teams see us as the most experienced team out there,” said Johnson. “Teams definitely know that if they aren’t on their game, they will have a very tough time beating us.” “Our whole outlook has changed. We went from struggling with the top competition to being one of the toughest competitors out there,” Eldredge added.
On the womens side, All-American Buck, who took the semester off in order to retain her eligibility, will join Harriet Antczak ’05 and Scheer, invariably propelling the team to the forefront of the collegiate polo community.
“We have a very talented team, but Molly’s return brings a greater sense of confidence and experience,” said Bianchi.
This past weekend, both squads, bolstered by its key additions, were eager to regain the forms that took them to their respective championship matches. Following a couple of weeks of inclement weather and transportation issues, the men’s and women’s teams each played a home game against UConn and an away match at Yale. The women were edged by a goal against Yale last Friday night, as they still were not at full strength with Antczak sidelined through injury. The men, on the other hand, regained their old form in a convincing 23-13 victory over UConn.
On Saturday night, Johnson tallied 16 goals, while Markle notched eight and Grew added five, in a 29-5 rout of Yale. The women, finally playing with its top three starters, took on a UConn team that had beaten the Red by seven in both meetings during the fall. The starters’ experience kicked in, and the Red came away with a 14-13 victory.
“We still have to work on increasing our game awareness, sharpening our skills, and getting back into playing form,” Eldredge said.
Both squads have one objective on the season though — winning the national championship in April.
“Other teams should be very worried. They knew all fall that these guys would be coming back. Our whole makeup is changed, and it makes us very competitve,” Eldredge said. “On the men’s side, it really hurt losing last year to Virginia. The guys are extremely hungry. Hopefully it won’t get in the way and they can stay calm and play their game.”
Archived article by Jon Hausner
Sun Staff Writer