March 24, 2009

Men’s, Women’s Polo Sweep Regionals, Head for Nationals

Print More

The men’s and women’s polo teams both found success over the break, with the men beating Yale and UConn to qualify for Nationals, while the No.1 women disposed of UMass and UConn en route to a 20-0 season record and their own Nationals bid.[img_assist|nid=36185|title=Once a winner, always a winner|desc=A Cornell rider beats out an opponent during Cornell’s 17-8 victory over the Huskies on Nov. 8, 2008. The women faced UConn again in the Eastern Regional finals March 13, winning by forfeit and advancing to Nationals.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
Following an 18-14 victory over the Tea Brook Polo Club and a bye in the first round of their sectional tourney, Cornell’s men’s polo team faced Yale in the semi-final stage of the Northeast Regional tournament at the Oxley Equestrian Center. The Red defeated the Bulldogs twice earlier in the season and were sizable favorites heading into their Friday, March 13 match-up. The game proved to be a breeze for the Red, who cruised to a 27-8 win.
Sophomore Max Constant recorded eight goals, as did senior captain Bobby Harvey. A six point effort was produced by senior Rich Weidel, and junior Dan Grew and senior Tim Scott contributed markers as well. Two pony goals were also credited to the Red.
The Red’s March 15 opponent in the finals, the UConn Huskies, established themselves as far more competitive than Yale. All-tournament team members, Max Constant and Bobby Harvey, helped the Red recover from an early first chukker deficit that contributed to a six-point halftime lead for the team from Storrs, Conn. The rebound started at halftime, when head coach David Eldredge ’81 fired up his team with an emotional speech. He reminded the squad that they had disposed of UConn by 11 goals earlier in the season.
The Red came out firing in the early minutes of the second half. The Huskies’ lead was cut immediately by the home team. Constant scored 12 goals and drew point-awarding fouls on two others. Harvey scooped up three points while Weidel knocked in two, including the all-important game-winner with under a minute to go. Two penalty goals were also earned by Harvey to bring the Red’s total to 21 points, only one better than the visiting Huskies. The 21-20 win was the slimmest margin of victory for Cornell all season and hopefully will provide the come-back confidence so important for a team that wishes to advance far into the playoffs.
“The first two periods were very uncharacteristic of our team,” Constant said. “We were coming off two good weeks of practice and two well-played games, so to find ourselves in that situation at halftime was not what we had anticipated. Coach Eldredge challenged how badly we wanted this game, and I knew how important it was to Rich [Weidel] and Bobby [Harvey] to give our team a shot at the national title.”
Constant played one of the strongest games of his young college career, which helped his 14-4 team clinch an automatic bid to the national tournament.
Max’s older sister, senior captain Ariana, led the Red to a victory in the Northeast Regional tournament. After easily dominating the Minutewomen of UMass by a final score of 24-4 in the semifinal round, the women in red and white met the Huskies of UConn in the Northeast Regional title game. After building a 13-5 halftime advantage, the Red won the game by an official mark of 1-0 due to a forfeit from UConn. Following their loss of a player and the inability of their alternate to travel to Ithaca, the Huskies decided to forfeit the contest rather than play two-on-three for the remainder of the game. The Northeast Regional championship, a No. 1 ranking in the upcoming national tournament, and an undefeated 20-0 record all now belong to the Red.
“The UConn game was a slight disappointment,” Constant said. “We were just starting to get into our ‘groove’ when their player fell off her horse. I’ve never in the eight years that I have been playing competitive polo known of a team to forfeit. We just wanted to play our game and beat them fair and square.”
Constant was emphatic concerning the team’s disappointment at the anticlimactic finish.
“We played great against UMass, and it really set the tone for the UConn game. It was too bad we couldn’t finish it. We’re seeded No. 1 for the national tournament, and while there are always going to be aspects of our game that need to be worked on [which we’ll be working on for the next two weeks], we should be successful in nationals if we play hard and play our game.”