February 3, 2009

Polo Teams Split Virginia at Oxley

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So it is said, “there are no moral victories in sports.” A lesson learned, however, is always a small victory. The men’s and women’s polo teams hosted Virgina this weekend in a continuation of one of Cornell’s strongest polo rivalries. In the men’s match on Saturday night, the visitors jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead, and never looked back in their 23-12 victory. The women had more success, keeping their winning streak alive at 15 with a 15-13 home win over the Cavs on Friday night.
The Cavaliers traveled to Ithaca from Charlottesville, Va., to play the Red for the third time this season. The first two meetings went to the Cavaliers by final scores of 23-5 and 27-17. After losing every regular season game to the Cavs last season, the Red squeaked by the rivals in the semi-final round of the national tournament.
[img_assist|nid=34685|title=Yeehaw!|desc=The men’s polo team was routed in its matchup with Virginia, while the women narrowly defeated the Cavs to stay undefeated.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
The Red seemed to be on a similar path this season, as it attempted to close the gap on the Cavs between the team’s first and second meetings. The Cavs, on the other hand, had other ideas.
Virginia had doubled up on Cornell, 10-5, when the galloping came to a stop at the end of the first half. A Virginia-dominated third chukker, however, shut down any hope of a quick second-half comeback by the Red, which was down, 16-7, going into the last period of play. The home squad’s fourth quarter surge brought it within seven at 18-11, but a missed penalty shot and a blown opportunity in front of the goal handed the momentum back to the Cavs. Virginia ended the game on a 5-1 run, highlighted by a full field-length two-pointer.
Senior Bobby Harvey played a solid game for the Red, tallying four goals on a very quick horse. Harvey’s classmate, Rich Weidel, scored once, but was in position for several more goals over the course of the game. Weidel’s good positional work was not enough save the Red, which was outperformed in the transition game.
“They were killing us in the transition game,” said sophomore Max Constant, who notched six points. “When we would move up, they’re faster than us, and we would get caught. If we can’t execute [our offense] exactly perfectly, then you get that 10-goal difference. Perhaps next game, I’ll have to play a more disciplined back [No. 3 position] and not take the ball forward as much. A low-scoring game would favor us more than it would them.”
“I think the score reflected how the game went,” said head coach David Eldredge ’81. “UVA was on; they shot at the goal very well and accurately. They took advantage of every chance that they got, and we didn’t. We were not efficient.”
Eldredge said he is not overly worried about his team’s ability to compete with Virginia, however.
“It’s early in the semester,” Eldredge said. “Everybody had a [long] break. They were sharp. They’re a good, talented team, and we have to play at our best to play with them. We did okay [on Saturday] in a lot of aspects, but not at the level where we will be playing when we play them later on.”
When asked about the similarities between the Red-Cavaliers matchups of last season and this season’s contests, Eldredge said he thinks the 2008-09 Virginia squad is more talented than last season’s Cavs squad.
“It’s a different situation than last year because they do have some new players who are very talented guys,” he said. “If we can get back to the level of playing we’re capable of, I feel we can compete with them. ”
On an individual basis, Eldredge said he felt each of his riders could have played a more significant role in the match.
“Rich [Weidel] did not have his strongest game,” Eldredge said. “But the good thing is that he improved throughout and played his best in the fourth chukker. Bobby [Harvey] is not playing at the level where he was last year, but he is playing better than he was at the end of last semester.
“Max [Constant] was expecting things to be more technically perfect than they could be. He could have had a little bit more of a ‘go for it’ attitude.”
The undefeated women’s team upped its record to 15-0 on Friday night, as it edged the visiting Cavaliers’ women’s squad, 15-13.
“The women had some rust; they were definitely showing that,” Eldredge said. “It was good, though, that someone played us that close, because it showed the girls that they are touchable, and they have to be on top of things.”
Senior Ari Constant and sophomore Lizzie Wisner each played the entire game. Senior twins Emily and Erin Bold alternated chukkers for the Red.
“The game was very tough physically,” Constant said. “It was the first game back, and we haven’t played in two months. We came out of it knowing what we need to work on, and hopefully with more games under our belt, we will be back to where we were when we ended last semester, or even better.”