While many Cornellians will hope to avoid sunburns this week, the men’s and women’s polo teams will have a much tougher task as they compete for their respective Northeastern Regional championships. Starting today, the Red will welcome familiar competition to the Oxley Equestrian Center as all the teams vie for a spot in nationals; accordingly, the winners will receive automatic bids.
The men will play Skidmore and UConn in a three-way round robin tournament – the Red beat Skidmore twice earlier in the season and lost to UConn two times before dominating the Huskies, 29-11, in its most recent match two weeks ago. The latest victory makes the Red the favorite heading into this weekend’s matches.
“We definitely have some good confidence going into the matches,” said head coach David Eldredge ’81. “We have to go out and play hard in the games because you don’t know what will happen in any given match.”
Despite the appearance of home field advantage, the playing field will be evened by the fact that both squads will bring their own horses. This type of transportation of horses only happens at tournaments with considerable implications.
“It levels the playing field a little bit more,” said Eldredge. “What will still matter is who can get the most out of their horses.”
Recently, Texas A&M beat Texas Tech in another regional title match and earned the first spot in the national tournament. Texas Tech, because of a strong regular season, will likely lock up the wild-card berth, making Cornell’s situation this weekend a must-win.
“We usually fair very well in the regionals,” said Eldredge. “We are expecting to win.”
On the women’s side, in addition to UConn and Skidmore, UMass will also make the trip to Ithaca. Because of the additional team, the Red will face Skidmore in the semifinals, with the winner facing the victor of the UConn- UMass match.
The Red lost 9-8 to Skidmore on Oct. 28 before winning two matches in November to hold the edge in the season series.
“I am feeling quite good about the Skidmore game,” Eldredge said. “We beat them without [juniors] Julie [Nicholson] and Ariel [Katz], so we are going into this game with a great amount of confidence.”
If the Red can continue its winning streak against the Thoroughbreds, it will likely face the defending national champion Huskies in the regional championship match on Sunday. The Red has struggled all season against UConn, losing all four contests by a combined score of 89-38.
“I am expecting a tight match; [UConn] is no longer untouchable,” Eldredge said.
The Red’s efforts over the course of the season will likely earn it a spot in the nationals, regardless of the outcome of its match against UConn.
“I feel at this point that we have a good chance of getting a bid,” Eldredge said. “If we play them like we did last weekend, we should get that bid.”
Cornell hopes to secure national bids for both its teams this weekend and give each team a chance to add more national titles to already prestigious programs – the men are the defending national champions and the women have won five of the last six titles.
“I would love to get both teams into nationals,” Eldredge said. “Especially when you are hosting, you want to give your home team a chance to win it all.”
Archived article by Patrick Blakemore
Sun Staff Writer