February 24, 2006

W. Polo Hits the Road; Men's Team to Host N.E.

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As the long season kicks into high gear, Cornell’s polo teams prepare for their respective regional tournaments with important matches this weekend against formidable opponents.

After its huge win over Virginia last weekend in Ithaca, the women’s team is set to make the trip down to Charlottesville for tonight’s rematch with the Cavaliers. The change of venue could prove to be a tough test for the Red, as Virginia boasts a traditionally intimidating arena to play in for road teams. Additionally, two contrasting styles of play will face off, as the hardnosed Virginia squad matches up with the more finesse-oriented Red.

Nonetheless, the women’s team is riding high after last week’s victory over the Cavaliers and is prepared to tackle the challenge.

“The confidence gained by the win, that was the shot in the arm we needed,” said head coach Dave Eldredge ’81.

With Regional Championships right around the corner, Eldredge is beginning to see his team come together and is excited to see how much higher they can raise their level of play this weekend.

“Early in the semester, I realized we could compete with Connecticut for the Regional Championship,” Eldredge said. “We are getting better each week, and there is still a lot of time. We are going to keep improving, and that scares everyone else.”

Eldredge hopes the improvement will peak come nationals, which starts April 4th, where the Red will hope to compete for their sixth championship in the last seven years.

“If you put yourself in position to play for the championship, then you have given yourself a chance to win,” Eldredge said. “You have to go through Cornell to win this championship.”

The men’s team will host a talented New England squad this Saturday and is looking to maintain their unblemished record in the New Year. Cornell, the defending national champion, is looking to get a boost from freshman Bobby Harvey, who will return this week from a back injury. Eldredge says Harvey will definitely see some playing time as he battles back to full strength.

“[Senior] Will Yang has done a wonderful job filling in for Bobby,” Eldredge said.

Despite Yang’s solid play, the head coach also mentioned the necessity of placing Harvey back in the lineup as the men make their run towards regionals.

In the past few weeks the men have started to claim their identity as a relentless, attack oriented team.

“We have figured out our personality. We need to attack,” Eldredge said.

Sophomore Brian Fairclough echoed his coach’s feelings.

“You have to score, that’s the biggest thing. You can play as much defense as you want, but if you don’t score, you don’t win.”

As the team solidifies its identity and recovers from injuries during these last dual matches, they will be poised to make a run at repeating as national champions. Because Fairclough is this season’s only returning starter, there isn’t as much pressure on this team to repeat as one might expect.

“We are a huge underdog to repeat and I kind of like it that way,” Eldredge said, “It takes a lot of pressure off of the guys. I am very pleased with the direction of the guys, they do have the pride to get the trophy back.”

The men’s team will focus on New England this weekend, but are also ready to make their run for the title.

“The team is very different this year, but it is very realistic for us to compete for the championship,” Fairclough said.

Archived article by Patrick Blakemore
Sun Contributor