With a 21-18 win at home last week over defending national champion Virginia, the men’s polo team reestablished itself as a serious threat in this year’s title race.
“We played very well and showed we were a team to be reckoned with,” said head coach David Eldredge ’81. “We kind of caught them on their heels.”
However, now as the team travels to Charlottesville this weekend to complete the back-to-back matchup with the Cavaliers, the Red will try to take the message it sent to the collegiate polo ranks one step further.
“They are a very tough team,” Eldredge said. “It is a very tough place to play. With a win you feel great and even if you’re close, but you lose — you still feel pretty good about your effort.”
Hoping to replicate the strategy that carried them to victory a week ago, Cornell will concentrate on keeping offensive pressure on the Cavaliers. Eldredge feels the Red’s ability to keep this pressure on is one of the team’s greatest improvements from last year’s national runner-up squad.
“We have to do the same things we did last week,” Eldredge said. “We used a strong offensive game to keep them back on their heels. We are a stronger offensive team than last year.” The return of All-Americans Senter Johnson and Jeff Markle for the second semester has been the catalyst for the Red’s offensive attack. Combining to score 16 goals last Friday, the duo was the obvious difference makers in contrast to the two teams’ earlier contest this season, in which the Cavalier’s notched a 26-15 win over a Red squad without Markle or Johnson.
“They are incredibly important to the squad,” Eldredge said. “They were the top two All-American’s a year ago, and their strength and leadership on and off the field is great. You can’t say enough about them.”
Meanwhile, the women’s squad will also make the trip Charlottesville in an attempt to even its season series record with the Cavaliers to 2-2. Last week, the Red, behind Molly Buck’s six goals, knocked off Virginia 16-11.
“It was a good game for us,” Eldredge said. “[Virginia] thought it could make a statement with that game.We took the wind out of their sails.”
Having overcome two national title hopefuls — the Red beat Connecticut 14-13 three weeks ago — in consecutive games, Cornell appears primed with the confidence to make a run at its sixth consecutive national title.
“Over the past few weeks we have definitely made a statement,” Eldredge said. “I think there were some questions about whether we would be able to contend when Molly Buck came back for the second semester. Now, its clear that we are back in contention.”
Following the Virginia game, the Cornell teams will return home to face a pair of club teams over the next two weeks before hosting the Eastern Regional championships.
“They should be good tune-ups,” Eldredge said. “We’re hoping that it will help us peak at the right time.”
Archived article by Scott Reich
Sun Staff Writer