October 28, 2008

Polo Team Looks to Capture National Titles This Year

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After a surprise trip to the National tournament title game last year, the men’s polo team is hoping for similar results in 2008-09.
All three starters return, but head coach David Eldredge ’81 has decided to implement a new system. Rather than relying on the individual talents of seniors Bobby Harvey and Rich Weidel and sophomore Max Constant, the Red will attempt to carry out a game plan that features teamwork and a network of dependence that was not seen in last year’s style of play. The highlights of the system include anticipation, structured movement and a balanced attack.
“Teamwork is key on any team, in any game of any sport,” Constant said. “If we all play well, [the new strategy] could propel us to great things. I believe in coach [Eldredge], I believe in the system and I like our chances because it works well.”[img_assist|nid=33067|title=Polo grounds|desc=The men’s and women’s polo team both beat Harvard last weekend.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
The men opened up their season with a seemingly tough loss to Virginia in Charlottesville, Va. The Cavaliers triumphed, 20-5, but Eldredge was positive in his recap of the game.
“We historically struggle against [Virginia] in the opening chukker,” he said. “We wanted to be within reach of them after one period. We played a great, team-focused opening chukker and were down 5-3 after one. We usually dig a deep hole in the beginning, so we were feeling pretty good after playing quite well. They went on a 15 goal run and buried us because we weren’t making good contact with the ball. When you miss balls, a good team like UVA is going to score goals.”
In regards to how the system looked in the opening contest, Eldredge was quite happy.
“We looked at what we accomplished last year,” he said. “We can do it again, but I felt we had to open up our game play a little more offensively and defensively. We’re trying to become more team-oriented. Against UVA, we were there to make the plays. Had we made them, we had UVA out of position.”
The Red then went home to the Oxley Equestrian Center and reeled off wins on consecutive days versus Harvard by tallies of 24-18 and 21-13. Constant, who received All-National tournament honors last year, has tallied 25 goals through the first three games, while Harvey has slowly been coming out of his shell.
“Bobby hasn’t found his game yet,” explains Eldredge. “Imagine a 60% three-point shooter in basketball shooting 20%. He hasn’t been making the plays he has been for three years. It’s a long season, so I’m glad he’s getting this out of his system now in the early games. He was better against Harvard [than against UVA], but he’s not fully back yet.”
If Harvey starts scoring at the rate he is capable of, Constant continues his all-star form, and Weidel can keep succeeding in the new system, then the boys in red and white should have another fantastic year in the making.
“The wins are okay,” sums up Eldredge, “but tournament time is when it matters. I still believe that once we get to our level of polo we can beat UVA.” With one returning all-star and two top recruits, the Cavs are the early season favorite. If the new game plan works like it should, the Red just might be able to silence that Cavalier attitude.