The horses at the Oxley Equestrian Center will be extra busy this weekend as both the men’s and women’s polo teams host opponents. Today the women will square off against Southern Pennsylvania Polo, and the men will do battle against Connecticut tomorrow.
The men’s team will have an opportunity to avenge its Oct. 22, 18-14 loss to the Huskies. The defeat was the only match the Red has lost all season to an opponent who will compete for the Eastern Regional championship in two weeks.
This time, it is a must-win for Cornell.
“This weekends game will be a determining factor in Regional seeding. If we win this game we will likely by the No. 1 eed,” said head coach David Eldredge ’81.
Connecticut will be without one of its top players, Brandon Kircher, who is no longer with the team after failing to make the switch into Connecticut’s four-year academic program.
“This weekend’s team will not be the same one [we faced in October]. His absence gives us a huge advantage, but it is also too bad, because we wanted to face them at full strength,” Eldredge said.
Still, the Red will need solid play in order to get back into its winning ways after a loss last weekend to New England. Especially important will be the play of sophomore Brian Fairclough. Eldredge feels that he has finally put Fairclough in a position to utilize his full arsenal of skills.
“Brian will line up in the front at the No. 1 position this week,” Eldredge said. “It opens him up more on the offensive end, relieving him of some of the pressure, and giving him more freedom.”
Moving Fairclough up front will hopefully be the final change for the men’s team before regionals, as Eldredge moves toward solidifying the team lineup.
“One of my struggles has been trying to figure out the best way to organize the talent I have so we can succeed,” Eldredge said. “I think I have finally done that.”
Meanwhile, the women’s team will look to gain invaluable experience against Southern Pennsylvania Polo, a club team from the south.
“I’m bringing in a quality club team that will force the women to work,” Eldredge said. “It gives them big game exposure that will be important when we get back into regional play.”
Against the tough competition, the Red needs to begin refining some of the minor skills in its preparation for its own Eastern Regional championships, where they will likely receive the No. 2 seed behind perennial juggernaut and defending national champion Connecticut.
“[Before Regionals] we need to work on some little things: how to finish better around the goal, how to perform better on defense, and the isolation of specific plays,” Eldredge said.
Despite last weekend’s loss, the women’s team maintains a swagger that its hope to carry through the rest of the season.
“It has been great to see the level of confidence that has been built with these ladies,” Eldredge said.
Archived article by Patrick Blakemore