This past weekend proved a successful one for Cornell Polo, with both the men’s and women’s teams picking up a pair of wins. After flattening Skidmore, 31-3, the men defeated rival UConn, 22-10, and the women beat Skidmore both home (25-13) and away (14-5).
Getting the weekend off to a solid start, the men hosted Skidmore and Cornell took the decisive win — outscoring its opponent by 28 points.
“Our biggest key against this team was teamwork. We knew where one another were going to be, and we were able to pass the ball well to one another. And the individual skills for us were a little better on the whole than where Skidmore is — that’s why we were as successful as we were,” said head coach David Eldredge ’81.
The team’s success also came down to the fact that Cornell’s squad is more experienced than Skidmore’s. While the Thoroughbreds lost starters to graduation, the Red kicked off the successful first chukker with senior riders Max Constant, Stephen True and David Dunstan.
“We were hitting our shots, we were putting the ball where it needed to go –– and also Skidmore is a young team, so we could really focus on the fundamentals and that’s something that allows for good, consistent polo,” Constant said.
Cornell pulled away from the first half with a wide lead.
“We played really well together. In the first two chukkers, Max did a good job setting up the plays and making sure he let us know where to go and where he was hitting the ball,” True said. “They would stick together as a team too much as opposed to covering us, which would leave us open to taking the ball to make plays.”
In order to prepare for the second match of the weekend against UConn, Eldredge pinpointed specific things he wanted his team to work on during the Skidmore game.
“For Connor [Pardell], I told him I wanted him to be shooting for goal from any area that he got once he got by the center line, because I need him to find that automatic instinctual feeling of ‘There’s the goal I can take the shot’ without looking for it,” Eldredge said. “With Max, it was a matter of needing him to get loosened up and Max had to figure out his back shots a little bit [in terms of] placing. We took specific things in this game to help prepare us for Sunday’s match in the return going up to UConn.”
Traveling on Sunday, the men prevailed against UConn, 22-10 –– a team they were beaten by just a week earlier.
The women’s team played Skidmore first at home, which resulted in a 25-13 win for Cornell.
“The game went well. We were more team cohesive and played off of each other very well. We were good with hitting passes up to each other or hitting back shots to each other,” said senior captain Lizzie Wisner. “We were quicker to respond to changes in play because we knew where our teammates were going.”
After defeating Skidmore by a wide margin in this first meeting, Cornell was confident it could beat the Thoroughbreds again on Sunday, and decided to travel with different riders for this away game.
“I split my starters a little bit this weekend,” Eldredge said. “This gave them the chance to get out there and show what each of them had on their own, which was good for the girls to go out there without leaning on each other too heavily.”
Senior Kayleigh Sullivan, freshman Kailey Eldredge and junior Ali Hoffman were starters in the road game, and came away with a 14-5 win.
Part of the challenge of this match was getting used to playing in a different arena and playing surface.
“The arena there is smaller than our arena and the surface — which has a great effect on the game — is much deeper and softer, so the ball doesn’t travel as well or as fast. I was quite pleased that we got off to a very good start,” Eldredge said.
Cornell started off strong and scored the first six goals of the match, allowing only one goal from its opponent in the initial chukker. The Red then shut-out the Thoroughbreds in the second chukker, and went on to win with only some push back from Skidmore in the tighter third chukker.
Next, Cornell will travel to Charlottesville to take on rival Virginia.
“Practice is going to be a little more intense this week,” Eldredge said. “UConn and Skidmore were more of regional tests, but UVA is more of a national-level test because they are one of the top four teams in the country.”
These first matches of the season have shown that Cornell is capable of being a strong competitor.
“We’re just starting to get to the point when we have all the basic stuff down, but it’s the little details that will push us to be just a little bit faster than the other teams,” Wisner said.
Competing against the Cavaliers will be a good opportunity for the Red to test its skills.
“It’s going to be good to travel to their arena and see how we do as compared to the University of Kentucky — the defending national champion — who has already played the University of Virginia and beaten them in their arena. It will be a nice comparison for us to see where we are in the national picture,” Eldredge said.
“We’re optimistic, but we know that it’s going to be our hardest game so far this year. We’re really going to have to work to win it,” Wisner added.
Original Author: Laura Dwulet