February 26, 2008

University of Virginia Rides Past Men’s, Women’s Polo

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On Feb. 2, the Cornell men’s polo team took down the University of Virginia, 22-20, at the Oxley Equestrian Center. In that matchup, though, UVA was missing its key player. The Cavaliers had their puzzle piece back last Friday night when they took on the men’s team in Charlottesville, Va., and took advantage of their fully-loaded squad. The women’s team also lost to UVA, 12-13, but defeated Maryland the next day, 15-14.
“UVA jumped on us big in the first chukker and grabbed a 7-1 lead,” said head coach David Eldredge ’81. “One of their main starters that was missing last time played in this game. His return had them pretty charged up for the first period.”
The Red regrouped before the second chukker, and won the period 5-4. The halftime deficit stood at five for the visitors.
“At halftime, we sat down and talked about our game plan and what we needed to do. We felt that they had better horses in the first chukker, and this proved true, because when we got those same horses in the third chukker, we outscored them 7-2,” Eldredge said. [img_assist|nid=28215|title=A Constant threat|desc=After returning from an illness, junior Ariana Constant scored 13 goals over the weekend for the women’s polo team.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
Each team uses the same horses for the same amount of time on the same amount of rest, so there can never be an advantage in the horse category. The swap of horses between the first and third chukkers brought the Red back into contention. Heading into the final period of play, the Red was on the short end of a 13-12 mark.
“We played well in the final chukker, but we missed a few key plays and were outscored 6-4,” Eldredge said. “[Freshman Max Constant] was having a lot of trouble finishing. I think that was the difference in the game. He has become a lot more secure and confident over the course of the season, but he just had an off night.”
Constant scored four times in the 19-16 defeat and remained upbeat about the long run.
“We’re confident we can beat them on a neutral site at Nationals,” Constant said.
Juniors Bobby Harvey and Rich Weidel recorded seven and four goals, respectively. The Red also earned one pony goal.
“I was very happy with the way the team played,” Eldredge said. “We really showed our maturity by gathering ourselves to come back from a six-goal first chukker deficit. Playing that well down there is a big step for us. In polo, a three-goal difference is anybody’s game, so we proved that they have to take us seriously.”
After a day off on Saturday, the boys mounted their horses once again on Sunday in Storrs, Conn. to take on the Huskies in a Northeast Regional match-up.
The line-up was eagerly awaited by the Red, which, according to Eldredge, “wanted everyone to take notice of us in the Northeast Region, especially after our tough loss down at Virginia.”
Constant started the game with a two-point goal and it was smooth sailing from there. The Red had a 6-2 lead after the first chukker and a 12-6 edge at halftime. Constant, Harvey and Weidel, though, were just getting started.
“We broke it open in the third chukker. The boys really put their feet down and won the chukker 7-2,” Eldredge said. With an 11-goal gap in front of them prior to the fourth chukker, “UConn realized that it was over. They made some substitutions, and we cruised from there.”
The final score was 26-9, with Harvey nabbing 11 tallies, Constant earning nine and Weidel attaining five. One pony goal was also added to the Red’s total.
“Bobby had the hot hand this weekend, and it definitely showed in the UConn game,” Constant said. “He was the reason we were clicking.”
After a long weekend, the squad will get the upcoming weekend off. Its next game is on March 8, when Toronto will roll into the Oxley Equestrian Center for an international duel.
The Cornell women’s polo team traveled to Charlottesville, V.A. Friday evening to take on the Cavaliers in a highly anticipated match. Beating UVA south of the Mason-Dixon line, however, is no easy task.
“In all my years of coaching, I can count on two hands the number of victories I’ve had at Virginia. I don’t think it’s the arena; it may be the horses, it may be the travel time, but whatever it is, everyone knows it’s hard to win down there,” said head coach David Eldredge ’81.
On Super Bowl Sunday, the Red edged by UVA, 14-11, at home. Yet the arena in Virginia seemed to loom over the girls as they arrived.
“When we play them at home or at neutral sites, we beat them regularly, but going down there, we know it’s the toughest place to play in intercollegiate polo,” Eldredge said.
The game was tied at halftime, but the Cavs scored three quick goals to start the third chukker. The Red battled back consistently during the second half to cut the lead to 12-11 with 20 seconds remaining in the fourth chukker. Senior Amanda Burns stepped up to the penalty shot semi-circle with the game on the line. With the pressure bubbling, Burns sent the ball hurtling between the pipes to knot the game up at 12 apiece with a shoot-out to follow.
“We went into the shoot-out, and in a fitting end to the day, we missed all three of our opportunities. (Virginia) made one to win 13-12,” said Eldredge.
This “fitting end” that Eldredge discusses addresses penalty shots.
“Our biggest problem,” Eldredge said, “was in the foul shooting department. We were three for 10 on penalty shots, and we usually shoot 70 percent. This problem manifested itself right away in the first chukker. Our lack of successful foul shots reared its ugly head up and bit us.”
Junior Ari Constant, who registered eight goals in her return from an illness last week, agreed with her coach.
“The loss was very frustrating,” Constant said. “We know we’re a stronger team than they are. We missed a lot of opportunities to score off their fouls.”
Burns and junior Emily Bold each contributed two goals in the losing effort.
“It was good to have Ari back in the lineup, and overall I was happy with the way the team played. We just missed penalty shots,” Eldredge said.
After returning to Ithaca from Cavalier country Saturday, the Red had to juice up its engine for a tilt with the Terrapins of Maryland on Saturday night.
“The girls were looking forward to this game [at the Oxley Equestrian Center], because we lost to [Maryland] earlier in the season [14-11 on Oct. 13],” Eldredge said.
Playing back-to-back games 450 miles apart is not an easy task for an entire team, let alone a star player who is recovering from an illness.
“It was quite clear from the onset that we were fatigued from the game the night before as well as the travel. Ari [Constant] was so tired that she had to come out at halftime, but she still made her mark on the game,” Eldredge said.
In only two chukkers of play, Constant knocked in five goals. Her halftime replacement, Erin Bold, lit the lamp six times over the course of the third and fourth chukkers. This extraordinary scoring burst from the No. 2 position (Constant and Bold) secured the Red’s victory after only leading 8-6 at the halfway mark. Erin’s twin, Emily Bold, tallied two goals and Burns added one. A pony goal was also awarded to the Red.
“Erin [Bold] was quite the sparkplug for us in the second half. She scored two of the three goals we had in the third chukker and caused the pony goal for the other tally,” Eldredge said.
“Erin Bold really stepped it up for us, scoring six times in only two periods. It was exciting,” Constant said.
The Red struggled again from the foul line though, only scoring on four of 10 opportunities.
“We felt we would have been better had we been better rested. However, it was good for us to see where we are when we play tired,” Eldredge said.
The final score was 15-14 as the Red hung on for the victory.
“The girls did really well on the whole,” Eldredge said of the weekend’s games. “We felt we should have had the game at Virginia, but the shoot-out was a good learning experience. We were pleased with the effort this weekend.”