April 10, 2011

Red Polo Beats UConn, Men Gain No. 2 Seed and Women No. 1

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Men’s and women’s polo teams beat UConn this weekend at home to clinch regional title.Both the men’s and women’s polo teams clinched the regional title this weekend after closing off the weekend with 13-11 and 24-11 wins, respectively, over the UConn squads on Sunday. These wins most likely earn the men a No. 2 seed going into the National Tournament, and secure the No. 1 seed for the undefeated women’s team.

After a decisive 31-3 victory against Skidmore earlier in the weekend, the men (14-4) earned the regional title with the win over UConn.

“This is where we were striving to get with the guys. We wanted to go into the tournament as the No. 2 seed, because that gives us our best opportunity to get into the finals,” said head coach David Eldredge.

As the Skidmore players were less experienced than the Red, the match turned out to be a solid win for Cornell.

“They’re a young team, and while they’re coming along well it was rather lopsided. We had the opportunity to put in a lot of our fourth, fifth, sixth players that we have on the team and get them some experience,” said senior captain Max Constant.

Last time facing UConn, Cornell won by a 12-point margin, with a final score of 22-10. However this time, the match against the Huskies was more of a close, back-and-forth challenge for the Red.

“Their style of play is a bit more physical than ours is and that was a big handicapping factor today, because they were very physical with the ball and with the plays and they made it tough,” Constant said.

Although the results were in the Red’s favor, according to Eldredge, there were aspects of play that the team could have improved on.

“I was very happy with the fact that we controlled a lot of the game and had the ball at our end, but we had a lot of trouble finishing, and we had a lot of trouble with our foul shooting, and that’s what actually made the game close,” Eldredge said.

Trouble with foul shots was one of the main reasons the team didn’t capitalize on all of its scoring opportunities during the match.

“I’m happy about the win, but I’m disappointed that our foul shooting still seems to be our Achilles heel this year,” Eldredge said. “We scored our first penalty shot and our last one that we really needed, but had we shot a bunch of the fouls in between even if we had done 50% of the ones in between, we would have probably won by five or six goals.”

Connor Pardell’s strong second half helped propel the Red to the win.

“In the third chukker, the horses we were riding were getting a little tired and it affected Max[Constant] and Branden [VanLoon], and Connor [Pardell] really took the horse that he had and he did a lot more than was expected of him and he got major kudos for that,” Eldredge said. “He made some key plays that kept us in the match and enabled Max and Branden to make good on their opportunities.”

Close matches have not been uncommon for the men this season, and the Red did well to stay confident under pressure against the Huskies during the close final chukker.

“I know that with the heart and the scrappiness of this team, they are not going to quit, and they’re not feeling beaten when they’re down like that. In a time-span of two minutes, we had made a four-goal turn around and it’s something this team can do,” Eldredge said.

The women (19-0) shut out the UMass squad 32-0 before beating the UConn team to remain undefeated this year.

Similar to the men’s Skidmore victory earlier in the weekend, the women’s matchup against UMass was lopsided in the Red’s favor.

“We knew that they were a young team … the [UMass] coach put in her three starters who were seniors and let them play two chukkers, and we built up a pretty strong lead on them even with their starters, which speaks to the level that the Cornell have gotten to,” Eldredge said.

In the closer UConn competition, the Red pulled away with a 24-11 win.

“They are very scrappy players. They had a good win against Skidmore and they were running high off of that … they really had nothing to lose coming into this game whereas we’re undefeated and it took the pressure off of them and put it on us,” said junior Ali Hoffman. “But our team works well under pressure situations and I think that was why we were able to come out on top.”

A benefit of playing the skillful UConn team was the practice it gave Cornell nearing the National Competition.

“They play a lot like Kentucky who is probably going to be one of our biggest competitors going into the competition as well as UVA. So getting to play them and coming out with the win is really good for us,” Hoffman said.

UConn put up a good fight against the Red.

“They fight really well. They’re very good at setting up fouls and we had a little bit of trouble catching them on fouls. They play a rough game, which is hard to get used to at first. We’re better at playing fast-paced games, and they were good at slowing us down,” said senior Jessica Cross.

Cornell did a good job of recognizing UConn’s playing style after the first half, and came into the third chukker strong and ready to rally for goals.

“We were up by nine by the end of the [third] chukker and that’s been their M.O. all year,” Eldredge said.

Picking up the speed in the third chukker is something the Red has tried to do all season.

“By the time the third chukker rolls around, we’ve kind of gotten used to how the other team is playing,” Hoffman said. “We we are able to understand what their game plan is for the match and how they’re approaching it and we are able to take that and apply that to the second half.”

The women hope to continue improving from this match as they approach the National Competition.

“We’ve come away with a regional title the last three years, but we haven’t quite been able to step up and keep our No. 1 position held there,” Hoffman said. “The way we’ve been playing this year gives us a lot of confidence, because we haven’t succumbed to any of the pressure situations that we’ve been in … that’s the difference between this year and past years.”

Original Author: Laura Dwulet