Two games in two days will certainly test the endurance of the men’s polo squad – not to mention its legs.
“Usually I can’t even feel my legs until a few days after a match, so I was a bit surprised when I saw both Yale and UConn on the schedule this weekend,” said junior Stan Feldman.
With a schedule consisting of Yale on Saturday night and perennial powerhouse UConn on Sunday, the Red’s strategy is quite simple – take it easy against the Bulldogs.
“Any way you slice it, we’re going to soundly beat Yale,” said sophomore Brian Fairclough. “So instead of exhausting me, [freshman] Bobby [Harvey], and Stan, we’re going to rotate in all of our varsity guys, even more so than against Skidmore last weekend. We’ll probably only play one or two chukkers each. I mean, when you’ve got a 1,000-pound animal pounding you so bad that you get bruises up and down your legs for days to come, there’s no reason to put us through that Saturday. There’s only so much pounding your legs can take before they just give out.”
On Sunday, Cornell will travel over five hours to try and avenge its 18-14 defeat to UConn earlier this season. Fairclough says that playing on the road will be tough, but believes the key to victory lies in the offensive attack.
“It’s going to be rough,” he said. “We’ve go to go and jump on these horses that are completely different than the ones we ride at home. I think we’re good enough to overcome it, though. Last time, we just played one bad chukker. We got too defensive and conservative. I just wasn’t used to playing with those guys at the time, so I tried to play both offense and defense. That was at the very beginning of the year, though. Now, we’ve had a month to work on getting the ball up the field. We’ve just got to get it down the field and keep moving it forward all the time.”
Feldman adds that the Huskies, who haven’t finished under .500 in over 11 years, are also lack the coaching Cornell receives from its head coach, David Eldredge ’81.
“UConn plays very stubborn and bullheaded,” Feldman said. “They play really wild and all the players just kind of do what they want to do on the field since they don’t really have the consistent coaching we do. This makes them real fun to play, but I think we play smarter which is to our advantage.”
This week, Eldredge has focused on improving the team’s communication and teamwork.
“In practice, I’ve had the guys working on drills which force you to depend on one another,” Eldredge said. “Drills where you have to ride away from something and trust your teammate will pick you up. Or drills where you have to make a pass to somewhere, assuming your teammate will be there. We’re trying to make things a little more scripted, not so free-flowing.”
When all is said and done, though, Fairclough feels that Harvey will be the key to victory.
“[Harvey’s] playing twice as good as he was at the beginning of the year,” Fairclough said. “He has really upped his speed because he has gotten in shape. This allows us to spread it out more and use our passing game.”
The women’s squad, which originally was scheduled to endure the same two games in two days, now only has to take on Yale tonight at the Oxley Equestrian Center. The UConn game, originally scheduled for Sunday, was rescheduled due to a lack of horses. Nonetheless, the Bulldogs could present a problem for the Red, according to Eldredge.
“Yale has a couple of returning starters from last year,” Eldredge said. “There problem then was consistency, and against us they didn’t show up like I thought they would. Seeing them play against other teams, though, I saw that they could play very well together. So, the problem Friday is that I don’t know which team will show up.”
If Yale will bring one thing consistently, it will be aggressiveness, says Eldredge.
“The key is to not let their aggressiveness beat us,” he said. “We don’t have to be more aggressive, just match them and not be surprised by their physicality and hustle which they will bring. We just need to make sure we focus on not getting into a bump and grind game. Those limit our chances and we have trouble finishing close to the goal. We have started taking lots of long shots to counter this. If we shoot early and often, we should be successful.”
Archived article by Cory Bennett
Sun Staff Writer