November 25, 2008

Polo Successful at Home Invite

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Led by models of consistency, the Constant siblings, senior Ariana and sophomore Max, the Red have taken the college polo world by storm. In the annual Bill Field Invitational, held at the Oxley Equestrian Center, the Red put their dominant men and women’s teams on display.
The tournament started Wednesday with a confrontation between Ivy League rivals. Yale’s Bulldogs came to Ithaca in hopes of shocking the Red. CU kicked things off with a 10-goal first chukker. After building the 10-0 lead, two starters, sophomore Max Constant and senior Bobby Harvey, were pulled from the game. Senior Rich Weidel stayed in the match to play with sophomore David Dunstan and junior Luis-Francois De Lencquesaing. The Massachusetts and France natives, respectively, teamed with Weidel to fend off Yale by a final score of 23-10.
[img_assist|nid=33880|title=Chukking away|desc=Senior Emily Bold (4) rides in front of an opponent from Kentucky during the Red’s 33-15 home win on Nov. 15.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
“We knew they had graduated a bunch of people and are very young and green,” said head coach David Eldredge ’81. “It was a great opportunity for a couple of other players to come off the bench and get some playing time. That was the biggest thing that came out of that game.”
Traveling all the way from Palo Alto, Calif., Stanford joined Kentucky as the Red’s most interesting opponents so far this season.
“We expected [the Cardinal] to be kind of challenging,” Eldredge said. “We watched their first game and they had a couple of pretty talented players on their team.”
In reality, however, the game was far from close. The 30-7 victory gave the Red their 8th “W” of the season.
“It was a good open game,” Eldredge said. “The problem for the Stanford team was that they were just good enough to keep the floor open; it worked against them because they weren’t up to keeping up with our playmaking abilities. It turned what could have been a competitive game into a rout. What was good about that game was that we were able to get ourselves sharp and ready for the final.”
In the final, the Red ran into a buzzsaw, howver. The Virginia Cavaliers are currently the best polo team in the country east of the Mississippi River. Other than Texas A&M, the Cavs are the most impressive team in the U.S. Although faltering at home, 27-17, the Red feels it can repeat last season’s pattern in which Cornell lost to Virginia every time they played them, except in the national tournament.
“The final started out very well. I was actually very pleased,” Eldredge said. “We came out of the first chukker ahead 7-5. We stayed pretty close throughout the match. We ran into an issue in the beginning of the second chukker which turned out to be the issue that cost us the game. Our handling of the throw-ins was problematic. They were getting a lot of breaks off the throw-ins. If you win the throw-ins, you’re going to win the game.”
The reasons for losing, however, amounted to more than a lack of competence in the throw-ins department.
“They won the throw-ins. This was the primary problem. The secondary problem was that we had a bit of a finishing problem,” Eldredge said. “The second chukker was a dogfight. They scored a buzzer-beater before halftime to go up 11-10. They won the third chukker by three goals to go up by four before the 4th chukker. Four goals is not unmanageable. For instance, Virgina was down by six at halftime to UConn and then was up by three after the third chukker. We felt that [a win] was still in reach. We weren’t overconfident, but we knew we had our work ahead of us.”
The Red’s hopes were quickly dashed.
“We lost a couple throw-ins right off of the bat, which enabled them to increase the lead to six goals very quickly,” Eldredge said. “We traded some goals and missed some opportunities. They increased the difference and won by 10 points.”
Despite the wide margin of defeat, the Red knows how close it was during the contest.
“We were neck and neck; we were even ahead for a while,” Constant said. “I don’t know exactly what happened, but they got lucky on some opportunities and converted some goals. Once they got an eight goal lead, it was tough to make up. Once either one of us pulls ahead of the other, it’s tough for us to come back on each other.”
Eldredge and Constant are both confident that the team will be ready to win when it counts.
“They’re a beatable team,” Constant said. “We’re in it for the long run. We’re built for a marathon. They have a lot of talent but they’re probably not going to get a lot better than what they are at now. We can get better to get past them. At face value and on paper, they are very talented. Just like last year, we know the kind of talent they have. They’re struggling to get past that threshold.”
Eldredge’s feelings are in line with his star player.
“We know what we have to fix,” he said. “The guys came out of the game and knew they could play with these guys. We got pounded in the fall because we were unable to make the hits. This time, we were able to make the hits; we were just unable to make the goals. That’s the next step. I’d rather us peak in the spring then now anyway.”
The previously 10-0 women started the Bill Field Invitational with a match against Skidmore on Wednesday.
“It was a convincing win,” Eldredge said, of the 32-7 victory. “The Varsity players [seniors Constant, Emily Bold and Erin Bold and sophomore Lizzie Wisner] played the first half. Senior Sarah Eversman and sophomore Jessica Cross played the second half. It was a tune-up game for the rest of the tourney.”
Following its win over the Thoroughbreds from Saratoga Springs, N.Y., the Red took on Yale and dismantled the Bulldogs by a score of 30-7 on Saturday.
“It was very similar to the Skidmore game in that I got to play girls that don’t play regularly,” Eldredge said. “Ari, Lizzie and Erin got a 10-0 lead after one chukker. Then [seniors] Libby Gaige and Claudia Reyner played with Emily in the second chukker. We built a 20-0 halftime lead.”
It was smooth sailing from there. The 62-14 scoring advantage through two games prepared the Red for a re-match with UConn, whom it had already beaten twice this November.
“[The Huskies] have given us the most problems of every team we’ve played this year,” Eldredge said. “We struggled against them in the first half up in Storrs on Nov. 2. We built a steady lead on Nov. 8. In this game, we came from behind to grab a half-time lead. We dominated the play and just could not find the goal in the third chukker. In the fourth chukker, we broke right out with nine goals. Their only two goals in the fourth chukker came off penalty shots.”
The late game dominance led the now 13-0 Red to a 22-12 win. One of the Red’s stars has been Wisner, who transferred to Cornell from UConn over the summer.
“Lizzie has done very, very well,” Eldredge said. “I always knew how talented she was from the first time I saw her play in high school. Since I started to work with her, I’ve been amazed at how easy and fun she is to coach. She has adapted very well from UConn and fits in well with the other players.”
In regards to his undefeated team, Eldredge is confident that this trend of constant winning will continue for the rest of the season.
“We’re a pretty dominant team right now,” he said. “Clearly, there’s a gap between us and the second and third place teams.”