October 27, 2010

Polo Hosts UConn in Early Key Matchup

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Playing host to UConn this weekend in Cornell’s Oxley Equestrian Center, the men’s and women’s Polo teams are beginning to settle into the fall season. Each squad has been utilizing practice time to focus on getting more comfortable playing alongside their respective teammates on the field.

The women’s team (1-0) will start off their weekend with tomorrow’s home match before traveling to play the Huskies a second time on Sunday in Stors, Conn.

“They’re probably our biggest rivals in the Northeast. One of their girls graduated so we’re looking at seeing whether it’s going to be a different team or a very similarly composed team,” said senior Lizzie Wisner.

Though the most competitive matches of the year typically occur during the spring semester, the fall season is also an important time for the team to prepare and face off against regional opponents.

“Our big tournament season is in the spring when we have our regionals and our nationals. It works in two phases for the women’s team, though. We’ll play the field tournament in the fall and that’s the culmination of our fall season,” Wisner said.

Centering its attention on improving the team’s cohesiveness in recent weeks, the Red utilizes practice time to get players more familiar with their teammates’ styles of play.

“We’re working on teamwork a fair amount,” Wisner said. “We lost one of our seniors last year and we have a couple girls who have been on the team but haven’t played at the higher level they are playing at this year. So we’re working on getting all of us syncing to the same rhythm and being able to know what to expect of each other on the field.”

Achieving this familiarity with the riding and game techniques of their two fellow players on the field is necessary for this three-woman team.

“Unlike a lot of sports, on the women’s side it’s a lot more contact-based and we’re more likely to be in pairs against an opposing teammate almost all of the time whereas the men’s team will spread out a lot more,” Wisner said.

Preparing for matches includes working to improve basic stick skills as well as running plenty of practice scrimmages.

“We all warm up together then we split up into two scrimmage teams and we each get two scrimmage chukkers every night. It’s not really fair to the horses to ask them to play longer than that in one night,” Wisner said.

Like the women’s team, the men’s squad (1-1) has seen early success in its first two matches. After winning its opener against Skidmore, the Red fell to Work to Ride in a close contest.

“It was a close game. It went into a penalty shootout and in the second round of the shootout we ended up losing by one,” said senior David Dunstan.

After practicing apart all summer, the men’s team sees these first weeks of the competitive season as a time to sharpen the group’s dynamic.

“During the summertime we all go back to playing on our respective clubs and then in the fall, the first couple practices are about remembering each player’s style because we all play differently. Where I might make one type of a play, Max [Constant] will generally make a different type of a play and Connor [Pardell] will make another type of a play,” said sophomore Branden Van Loon.

In preparing for the upcoming match against UConn, a top competitor in the region but also a familiar one for the Red, Cornell is focusing on its own game plan.

“We generally know what we’re going up against. We know what type of team they are and how they play. It’s just about going out there and having a game plan and executing that game plan. We know what we have to do in order to get the win,” said senior Max Constant.

To work toward a win, the Red will continue to focus on scrimmaging in practice to both anticipate match conditions and also to get more accustomed to playing as a group.

“One of the biggest things right now is finding our rhythm,” Constant said. “Because it’s a three-person team, we really need to be operating on the same wavelength in every game and in every play. We have the talent there to be successful as a team but we all need to really be on the same page in terms of how we’re playing, what plays we’re making and how we execute and approach each game. That’ll just be a matter of being on the field at the same time and practicing together.”

Original Author: Laura Dwulet