February 5, 2008

Men’s, Women’s Polo Upset Favored Virginia

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It must be a weekend for underdogs. 24 hours before the New York Giants would defeat the mighty Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, the Cornell men’s polo team upset the favored Virginia Cavaliers, 22-20, at the John T. Oxley Equestrian Center in Ithaca. The women defeated UVA as well, winning their match 14-11, on Sunday morning.
“It’s a huge win for us,” freshman Max Constant said.
Not only was it an important win for the team, but it was a special night for Constant, who delivered 11 points for the Red in front of his parents, two sisters and assmebled fraternity brothers.
“It gets intense when my parents come, and all of the frat brothers were here, so my adrenaline was pumping,” Constant said.[img_assist|nid=27291|title=Reach for it|desc=Junior Bobby Harvey led the men’s polo team in scoring Saturday, with two of his four coming in the final two minutes of the Red’s close 22-20 win.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
Known for his offensive prowess, Constant made his most noticeable mark on the contest on the defensive half of the field. Although he usually plays the No. 1 position, which is on offense, Constant lined up at the No. 3 spot for this matchup, and the coaching move paid off.
“Max [Constant] played No. 3 more in high school, so we decided to move him back to No. 3 for this game where he seems to be more comfortable,” said head coach David Eldredge.
The play of the game came when Constant made a series of great defensive plays with five minutes remaining in the second chukker, including a key block of a UVA 2-point penalty shot. Constant then cleared the ball to streaking junior Bobby Harvey, who deposited the ball in the goal to build a 10-5 lead that the Red would never turn over to the Cavaliers.
Just over four minutes later, junior Rich Weidel forced his way through a messy scrum in front of the UVA goal and split the pipes with 40 seconds left in first half.
“I had to take a chance there, go for it, and finish up the play to put us ahead so we had more confidence going into the second half,” Weidel said.
The halftime score was 11-7 in favor of the Red, but the Cavaliers stormed back in the third chukker to get within one point, 15-14, entering the fourth and final period of play.
Harvey, after struggling for most of the game, turned his jets on in front of a large crowd of frat brothers chanting his name. With the game tied at 18, Harvey delivered two crucial goals in the final two minutes, including a game-clinching penalty shot score that put the Red up, 22-20, with just over 30 seconds remaining in the contest.
“I wasn’t pulling the trigger earlier in the night,” Harvey said. “And I started off slowly, but towards the end, our lineup started working well and we took a step in the right direction tonight.”
Constant scored 10 times, but one of his tallies was a 2-pointer, so he finished with 11 points. Harvey added four goals and Weidel contributed three. The Red also scored four pony goals to round out its total of 22.
“We had an aberration with the UVA team,” Eldredge said, “because their No. 1 offensive player was out, so while it is good to get the win against two of their top players, that is not the same UVA team we’re going to see come tournament time.”
“We have a lot of work to do, but when we meet them again, probably in Nationals, it should be a very interesting game,” Constant said, putting the game in perspective.
While Cornell’s and Virginia’s men’s polo teams have an equal amount of talent, Virginia’s women’s team is supposed to be superior to Cornell’s. After the Red’s 14-11 victory on Sunday morning, Eldredge was very proud of his squad.
“The last time we played UVA, we did not have as much emotion,” Eldredge said. “We were flat last time, and our energy in this game proved to be the difference.”
While the UVA girls looked like brilliantly-schooled robots on the field, the girls wearing red scrapped and fought their way to victory.
“That extra little dig for it is what comes with the emotion,” Eldredge said, “and that is exactly what we need to be able to compete against other top teams, like U. Conn.”
Junior Ari Constant poured in nine points for the Red, Emily Bold added three and Amanda Burns delivered two. Erin Bold provided a burst of energy in the third chukker, when Cornell woke up after playing a sluggish first half.
The win was a surprising one for the Red, but one they certainly deserved.
After all was said and done, the team is where it should be at this point in the season.
“I’m very happy getting the win against them, and this shows that we are where we thought we should be,” Eldredge said.