March 25, 2008

Red Takes No. 3 Seed Nationally

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As the No. 1 seed in the Northeast Regional Polo Tournament, Cornell’s men’s polo team received a bye in the quarterfinal round. The Red entered the semifinal stage full of confidence, playing a Yale team that it had outscored by a combined 20 goals in two previous matches this season.
“We felt rested after getting a bye in the quarterfinals,” said head coach David Eldredge ’81 before the March 15 match at the Oxley Equestrian Center. “We felt we had a very good chance of beating the Yale squad after having good results against them during the year.”
Hosting the tournament was another bonus for the Red, but the boys sporting the home jerseys knew they could not take the Bulldogs lightly, as tourney time means win or go home. In the case of the Red, it would have been win or stay home, but regardless of the site, the players knew they had to be on their game.
“Even though they’re a developing team, we knew we couldn’t let up on any team we played in the regional tournament,” said freshman Max Constant. “We had to win every game, so we put the pressure on from the onset and kept it on throughout the game.”
Constant delivered nine goals in the contest, but Cornell’s optimism quickly evaporated when the young star fell in the early portion of the third chukker.[img_assist|nid=29094|title=Leading the cavalry|desc=Junior Bobby Harvey (center) led the Red offense to a 25-8 win over Yale in the semifinals of the regional tournament.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
“Normally, I know when I’m about to fall, and I fall in a certain way to protect myself. I didn’t see this one happening, so when I fell, I had no control and fell flat on my back,” Constant said. Even worse, his mallet was lying under him. “The mallet was under me and I fell right on it.”
Constant played the rest of the chukker, but was replaced by Dan Grew in the fourth period. Juniors Rich Weidel (five goals) and Bobby Harvey (11 goals) played solid games for the Red to secure a 25-8 victory.
Since the Red’s 22-20 triumph over Virginia Feb. 2, Bobby Harvey has simply been on fire. He has led the team in scoring over the last month and a half and has picked the right time to get hot.
“Bobby has paced himself very well for this season. He has gotten himself on a roll at the proper time,” Eldredge said.
Bobby’s hot streak continued on March 16, when the Red took on UConn for the third time this season. The regional final at Oxley featured 14 goals from Harvey and admirable play from the injured Constant (seven goals).
“It was very painful, but I knew what we had to do as a team,” Constant said. “From a personal standpoint, I knew that I had to play well to help everything click. Rich Weidel (two goals) was playing hurt, too, but even though we were banged up, we came out firing on all cylinders.”
After the Red grabbed a 5-2 lead in the first chukker, Harvey scored five of the Red’s following seven tallies to separate the Red from their opponents and propel the home team to a 24-11 victory.
“We had some concerns [about Constant’s back],” Eldredge said. “The trainers told us how to treat it and we handled it that night. Any injury can be a hindrance. He was good to go in terms of playing, but he definitely felt it.”
The rough play of UConn could have been a problem for the Red, but they played a very smart game in the second half.
“We simmered down a bit as the UConn players have a little bit of a temper. When they get down, they get frustrated,” said Eldredge.
Constant and Harvey persevered through the tough match to earn All-Tournament honors.
“It feels good to be recognized as one of the top players in the region by your opponents, who are the ones who vote on the award,” Constant said.
The Red received the No. 3 seed in the National Tournament, which is to be held in Lexington, Ky. in early April. First up for the Red, though, is a match with Tea Brook, a polo club from Buffalo, on Saturday at 8:15 in Ithaca.
Despite the success of the men’s squad, the Cornell polo community took a hit two weekends ago when the women’s team was snubbed from the National Tournament after losing in Northeast Regional final to UConn.
The regional tournament, held at the Oxley Equestrian Center, started off well for the Red. It opened up against the Crimson on Thursday, March 13 with a 44-0 victory.
“They did everything the way they should,” said Eldredge. They were technically sound and did not lower themselves to a lesser team.”
“We went into the Harvard game knowing that it would be an opportunity for everyone to score,” said junior Ariana Constant.
Constant’s expectations were far exceeded by her teammates. Constant, senior Amanda Burns, and junior Erin Bold each recorded 10 goals. Emily Bold lit the lamp eight times, and Jessica Cross registered six tallies in her first significant action of the season.
The next day, the Red squared off against UMass and disposed of the Minutemen 22-5. Emily Bold continued her fine play as of late, putting up 10 goals for the second consecutive game, while Constant, Burns, and Erin Bold added seven, three and two scores, respectively.
“Emily stood out in that game,” stated Eldredge. “We had to pay more attention to detail than we did in the Harvard game and had to make more things happen, and Emily helped us out in both ways.”
“They are a very physical team,” explained Constant. “For some reason though, they have trouble scoring goals, and we took advantage of that.”
With their confidence riding high, the girls faced off against UConn in the regional final on Sunday.
“Everyone expected to see a good match,” Eldredge said. “We came out and scored the first goal of the game, and that was pretty much the last thing that went right for us. They scored the next 12 goals.”
Eldredge and Constant both said that “we didn’t play our worst game and we didn’t play our best game. They just played amazing and everything went right for them.”
The final score was 26-8, but worse news for the girls had yet to arrive. Soon after their defeat, the team found out that it did not receive an invitation to the National Championships.
Five automatic bids were handed out, one for the victor of each region. The existence of at-large invitations wavers from year to year. With goal differential being the deciding factor in their fate, the Red’s loss by 18 goals in the final doomed them.
“Even though we were the second-ranked team in the nation, we didn’t get a bid,” said Eldredge. “Based on goal differential, I can’t argue too much with the committee’s decision. We were on the bubble and didn’t make it. It’s upsetting for us that our only senior, Amanda (Burns), won’t get a chance to play in nationals this year. We’re going to use this as fuel for next season, and try to earn an automatic bid and not have to worry about being on the bubble.”
The women in red will have a chance to end their season on a positive note on Friday at 7:30 when they play host to the Meadowbrook Polo Club of Long Island.