It was a busy weekend for for both the men’s and women’s polo teams. The men earned a split, rolling over Yale Saturday before falling to UConn on Sunday, while the women dropped a close game to Yale last Friday night.
With his team down 11-4 to UConn at halftime, men’s polo coach Dave Eldredge ’81 sat his team down at halftime Sunday night, and delivered a message that the team has been trying to follow all season.
“I told the guys that no matter what happens we have to push through and stick to our game plan,” he said. “We were having some issues getting adjusted to the horses we weren’t used to riding and we were reacting to those issues by playing conservative. I stressed that we needed to push it more.”
And push it they did, outscoring UConn, 7-5, in the second half. But it was not enough, as the Red was defeated, 16-11, moving them to 3-2 on the season.
“I really felt like we controlled the game for three chukkers,” said sophomore Brian Fairclough. “We controlled the ball well, especially in the first chukker. Honestly, I have never, in any polo game, seen such a drastic turnaround. We just ran into foul trouble in that second chukker and they made every penalty shot.”
According to Eldredge, it was the conservative play that caused the Red to fall into foul trouble. “When we play defensively like we did in the second chukker, it puts us in a vulnerable position,” Eldredge said. “We get caught back and are forced to foul more when we are in a defensive posture. On the bright side, the way we played solidified what our team identity should be. We now are secure in knowing that to be successful we need to play more aggressively and continue to push the ball up more.”
Freshman defenseman Bobby Harvey echoed these sentiments, saying that he fell into a finesse game which took away from the Red’s strategy.
“In the second period, I started straying from the game plan and started to play the ball,” Harvey said. “Usually, on defense, I’m supposed to play the man and cut him off, then go for the ball. When I started to go for the ball first, it lead to some costly penalties.”
Eldredge explained that the silver lining to Harvey’s mistakes is a valuable lesson.
“Bobby actually did an excellent job of riding a tough horse he wasn’t used to,” Eldredge said. “It really mentally fried him, though, because he spent a lot of time trying to think about how riding an unknown horse would effect his game which led to it affecting his game. From this he learned just to make the horse play his game, instead of the horse dictating Bobby’s game.”
The defeat Sunday came on the heels of a romp against an inexperienced and young Yale team Saturday night at home. The Red opened the contest with 14 unanswered goals on their way to a 31-4 victory.
“Two of their players had only been playing polo for like two months,” Harvey said. “The ball was on the offensive side nearly the entire time. This was nice, though, because we literally got to work a bunch of guys into the rotation. We even got in two kids who had no previous collegiate experience.”
The Yale women’s team posed much more of a problem, however. With a core of players that have fine tuned their game together for three years now, the Bulldogs are known for their speed and aggression. On Friday night, it helped them to a 14-12 victory over the Red.
“We were a little slow with our rotations,” said senior Morgan O’Brien. “They rotate very quickly. And defensively, we just couldn’t rotate quick enough. Offensively, we weren’t having a problem getting the ball up the field, but we couldn’t finish around the goal. We’ll have to work on our short stick work around the goal.”
Despite all this, the Red was ahead for the first three chukkers, before succumbing to foul trouble which led to the loss, dropping them to 2-3 on the year.
“I think we got a bit frustrated towards the end,” said senior Aisling Garcia. “There were a bunch of fouls towards the end of the game, and because of this we started to rush things a bit and not think things through as practically as we normally do. We lost our composure a little bit. A month ago, though, we couldn’t have even competed with this team. We need to look as this as now we have the experience, we just need to put it all together out there.”
Archived article by Cory Bennett
Sun Staff Writer