April 8, 2010

Polo Squads Ousted in National Semifinals

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In case the wounds from March Madness had begun to heal, the University of Kentucky can now boast about knocking another Cornell team from a big tournament –– women’s polo. Wednesday’s semifinal game between the rivals in Charlottesville, Va., ended, 18-12, in the Wildcats’ favor. The men also fell in the semifinals to Texas Tech, 17-15.

The two games shared some common themes: incredible heat and dynamic playing. The men’s game on Tuesday was played among temperatures inching towards the 90s. By Wednesday afternoon the women played in 94 degree heat. As any Cornellian can understand, record temperatures are not something the teams are used to.

“It’s just uncharacteristically hot down here. … We haven’t played in heat like that at all, period. It wasn’t that we’re not conditioned, we’re just conditioned differently,” said head coach David Elderedge.

Going into their game, the men were unfamiliar with the Texas Tech style of playing. Within the first minutes of play junior captain Max Constant realized that the Red Raiders were willing to dedicate a leading player to the sole task of covering him.

As Constant explained, this impacts the dynamic of the game and made it more difficult for him to play fluidly in the beginning.

“We hadn’t played anyone with that kind if style in awhile. For the first couple of minutes it was something we had to adjust to, but we did adjust,” Elderedge said.

Throughout the game, the team played effectively, controlling the game and forcing Kentucky to commit 30 fouls, generally unheard of in polo. The Red readily admits, however, that the loss of the game came down to an inability to hit foul shots. The team usually boasts a 70 percent success rate with penalty No. 2s and 90 percent on penalty No. 3s. However, of nine penalty No. 2s, four were cinched while the Red made just one of the possible five penalty No. 3s. Elderedge expressed his own certainty that, considering the slim two-point score margin, if the team had been up to its usual scoring potential the results would have been different.

“If we played that game again today, we’d win,” Elderedge said.

The anticipation leading up to the women’s game was as high as the temperatures as the Red was eager to avenge Kentucky, the only team to defeat it in the regular season. Throughout the first three chukkers the Red played dynamically, with the Wildcats gaining the lead only once. However, Elderedge said that a momentum shift instance in the fourth chukker, with the score tied, would cripple the Red’s chances. The fourth chukker opened with 11 points for both sides, and soon saw a penalty No. 4 committed by Kentucky. Junior captain Lizzie Wisner made a particularly strong shot, one the entire Cornell side would steadfastly defend as a goal. It was not deemed a goal, however, even after further discussion between the two umpires and goal judge.

“That kind of took the breath out of us. We went down that slippery slope,” Elderedge said.

Kentucky turned the final two minutes of play into a rally, securing seven points and successfully eliminating the Red from tournament play.

As stated by Elederedge, “Sometimes that’s all it takes –– one play.”

Original Author: Chyanne Eyde