November 11, 2008

Polo Sweeps Long, Five-Game Weekend

Print More

While back-to-back games in one weekend are no easy task for any coach to prepare for, the concept of two games in three days is certainly doable. Now add one, and then another, and then one more: five games over 48 hours is enough to send most coaches to an early shower. Polo head coach David Eldredge, ’81, however, is no stranger to a stressful weekend. The men’s side, which claimed a 3-1 record going into the weekend, played UConn at the Oxley Equestrian Center in Ithaca on Friday night before traveling to New Haven, Conn. Saturday evening to face the Yale Bulldogs. After playing Friday night at Yale and at home Saturday night vs. UConn, the previously 6-0 women’s squad headed back on the road Sunday afternoon to take on Skidmore in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.[img_assist|nid=33475|title=Playboy pony|desc=Sophomore Lizzie Wisner (right) a UConn transfer, rides against her former team during the Red’s 17-8 win Nov. 8.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
“After last week [a three game sweep], we were able to sweep this weekend, too,” Eldredge said. “I can honestly say I’m very happy about where we are at this point. The women are showing that they’re the No. 1 team in the country, and with the guys, I’m very happy about the UConn game. [The men] really proved to me that they’ve already reached a certain level that I expected they would reach later in the season.”
To start the long weekend off on the right foot, the men had to face their chief competition in the Northeast region, the University of Connecticut. The Huskies came into the game with high hopes, in large part because they had their former best player back on the team after he took a year off in 2007-2008. If one was looking for a symbol to describe the first chukker, he or she should look no further than the steam pouring off of the horses’ manes, even the players were sweating buckets. UConn’s aforementioned top performer had to sit out the 2nd chukker due to dehydration.
“As we expected, there was a lot of emotion in the game; it was a spirited first chukker,” Eldredge said.
The rough, intense tone of the game held its course from the opening face-off through the final buzzer. A consistent effort by the Red was enough to hand them a significant margin of victory.
“It was a continual building of the lead throughout the match,” said Eldredge. “[Senior] Bobby [Harvey] started to come out and show more of the player he is.”
Eldredge and Harvey were both impressed with the progress of the new system implemented at the start of this season.
“All three of our players did well. One guy didn’t stand out above the rest. Everyone was an equal contributor,” remarked Eldredge.
“We came out, played our game, kept it open, and came out with a big margin of victory. If we spread out and allow each one of us to do our part and carry out our roles, the system works. [Senior] Rich [Weidel] pressures up front, [sophomore] Max [Constant] is doing a really good job shutting our opponents down on defense, and I just fill in the holes,” said Harvey, a senior manning the No. 2 field position.
Harvey’s seven goals, merged with No. 3 Constant’s seven and No. 1 Weidel’s six formed the basis of a 23-12 victory helped by two penalty goals and one pony goal.
When it came time for the Yale match on Saturday, Eldredge knew there might be a significant drop-off in talent between the Huskies and the Bulldogs. Keeping Constant at home, the head coach sent Harvey, Weidel, and Tim Scott to New Haven.
“As the least experienced of the [starting] trio, Rich gets better and better with each experience against the less challenging teams,” Eldredge said.
The 24-10 victory came with seven goals from Weidel, 13 from Harvey, and three from Scott.
The women used a split squad approach during its three-game weekend, a practice employed by baseball managers during spring training when the team has two games on the same day. The weekend started for the Red with a trip to New Haven to take on a fellow Ivy League competitor Yale.
“Knowing the inexperience of Yale, we weren’t going to need all of our full strength. It was a good chance to get Claudia [Reyner], who’s a senior, some playing time. They cruised from the beginning,” Eldredge said. “The girls got to work on some things; every game has importance and we’re always playing to win.”
The cool, calm, and collected approach proved to be successful for the Red, who came home with a 23-5 victory. The all-senior line-up featured 14 goals from Ariana Constant, seven from Erin Bold and two from Reyner.
On Saturday, the Red took on UConn at home in Ithaca.
“This game was interesting,” Eldredge said. “The girls were anxious and looking forward to it. They weren’t worried about beating the team, but they wanted to have things sorted out on our home turf. In terms of our teamwork and passing skills, we got out (of the gate) better than we did the week before. We were up four after the 1st chukker and six at halftime.”
The final margin for the Red was nine, but it could have been much wider.
“We knew we missed a lot of our opportunities,” Eldredge said. “We had issues finding the goal. We controlled a lot of the game, but things weren’t flowing as easily as they should have been for us. We weren’t making as consistent contact on the ball as we normally have been. We were still able to win by nine goals without a good performance, so this shows the quality of our team.”
A former Husky herself, sophomore Lizzie Wisner, collected eight goals, while Constant registered seven. Emily Bold had two goals in the Red’s 17-8 victory.
On Sunday, the women traveled to Skidmore to take on the Thoroughbreds. The result was a 29-5 Cornell victory, which featured 14 goals from Wisner and nine tallies from Emily Bold in only three chukkers’ worth of playing time for each.
Sophomore Jessica Cross and senior Libby Gaige posted four and two points, respectively.
“A great thing coming out of this weekend,” Constant said, “Was that [the starters] all had the opportunity to work on our specific weaknesses. With our individual weaknesses dissipating, we’re moving towards perfecting our team unity and cohesion, to the point where we can read each others’ minds.”
With the women holding the unofficial No. 1 ranking in the country and the men reaching a season benchmark that they were supposed to reach weeks from now, Coach Eldredge has Cornell Polo quickly solidifying its reputation as one of the best programs in the country.
Assistant coaches Tony Condo and Chris Clapper helped coach some of the games due to the heavily booked weekend.
“Everyone’s gunning for us,” Eldredge said. “We’re not slowing down or being happy with where we are. We want to make ourselves better and beat everyone soundly with no doubts. With the girls’ team especially, the players don’t want anyone to question who is the top team out there.”