Competing for a national title is a special privilege experienced by only the most elite teams. This weekend, both the men’s and women’s polo teams will have the chance to earn that right, as they look to continue their successful seasons in the East-ern Regional championships, held at the Oxley Equestrian Center in Ithaca. Both Red squads can earn bids to the National tournament with strong showings in Regionals today and tomorrow. The Red women will welcome Skidmore College, UConn and UMass, while the men will host Skidmore, Yale, Connecticut and Harvard.
On the women’s side, the Red will face a familiar opponent first — UMass, winner of the preliminary round. The women already played UMass earlier in the season, earning a lopsided victory by a score of 25-5. Despite the easy win, head coach David Eldredge ’81 expects that the women will be both mentally and physically prepared for the match, so that they can focus on what will most likely be a more competitive battle with UConn in the following round.
“We had very good success against them [UMass],” Eldredge said. “We will be mostly focusing on our gameplan … what we need to do to be successful. After that, we’ll focus on specifics [for the next round], assuming we get by this weekend.”
The Red, which boasts an all-senior lineup, will use its age and experience to its advantage this weekend. Seniors Julie Nicholson, Ariel Katz and Monica Ganley will be at the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 positions, respectively. The team’s maturity has been seen in its ability to stay composed for an entire match and this skill has proven vital to the team’s success this season.
“That’s something that has really improved throughout the year,” Eldredge said. “If they can keep that and use it for the rest of the year, you never know what’s going to happen.”
Like the women, the men also enter the tournament in the driver’s seat in terms of achieving their goal of a National tournament bid. The Red hopes to carry the momentum from last weekend’s fulfilling victory over a solid Gardnertown squad into this weekend’s matches. At one point early in the game last weekend, the men were ahead by as many as six goals before letting their guards down a bit, showing that when performing at their best the Red are capable of doling out a fair amount of damage.
“We had some roster changes over the preceding week and we adjusted very, very well,” Eldredge said. “The guys came out and played a superb first half. We’re going in [to this weekend] with a whole lot of confidence.
They will begin the tournament by facing off with Yale tonight. This will be the fourth time this season the men have played the Bulldogs, defeating them soundly in all three of the previous matches.
“It will be a nice build-up for UConn [in the following round],” Eldredge said.
Playing the No. 1 position will be senior Jesse Llop, while sophomore Bobby Harvey and senior Stan Feldman will compete at the No. 2 and No. 3 positions, respectively.
The goal of reaching the National championship tournament may seem a bit lofty for some, but given the Red’s winning tradition and recent impressive performances, the squad is approaching the weekend with the belief that it can compete against anyone in the country.
“Their confidence is at a totally different level than it was a year ago,” Eldredge said. “They go out thinking they are the team to beat … [they] don’t have doubts.”