April 17, 2011

Cornell Hosts USPA Nationals With Eye on Title

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After months of focused preparation and competition that began back in September, the polo squads will finish off the season by competing in the UPSA National Championships this week at Ithaca’s Oxley Equestrian Center. The men (14-4) and women (19-0) have had solid seasons thus far, leaving both teams feeling confident going into this week’s games following strong showings in the Regionals. Cornell’s women’s polo team will enter the competition as the No. 1 seed when it competes against the winner of the Texas A&M versus Colorado State matchup on Wednesday, for a chance to compete in Saturday’s finals. Entering Nationals with an undefeated record, the women plan to remain consistent and motivated going into these national matches. “We are very prepared,” said senior Jessica Cross. “We’ve done really well this spring … in all of our games and we beat Kentucky [on the road] and when they came up here, so that was a relief and it gave us confidence. We beat Virginia as well, and in all, we’ve just been playing well in practice and in games — we feel strong going in, and I feel confident.”Entering Wednesday’s action, the women need only focus on executing their plan as they have been doing all season long, according to senior Lizzie Wisner. The captain feels that strong communication will be a key to success as the team makes its run at a national title.“We have very strong teamwork and we read each other’s shots really well,” Wisner said. “We talk to each other really well and we communicate well on the field, so we’re able to outplay other teams in terms of quickness because we know where each other is going.”Wisner, Cross, freshman Kailey Eldredge and junior Ali Hoffman, who have proven to be consistent players throughout the regular season, are expected to see most of the action in the team’s first game of the tournament.The men will begin competition on Thursday, when they face the winner of Tuesday’s Colorado State versus Westmont College match. Head coach David Eldredge expects the Red to play Colorado State, a team Cornell has already beaten twice this season, coming away with close wins, 24-20, 16-15. Keeping its composure in these tense situations is something the Red has been successful at this year.“[The team’s] composure in close matches this year has been very good,” Eldredge said. “I’ve been impressed throughout the year that, even when a match gets really tight, and even when they’ve been down late in a match — any of that stuff where you might have a chance of folding under the pressure of it — they have not. They have consistently found a way to get the job done. Come tournament time, that’s a huge thing.” To help prepare for this week’s matches, the men and women played a four-chukker scrimmage with each other on Saturday night. “It was a good opportunity to make a few last minute adjustments and get the horses some work to get ready for the next couple of days,” said senior captain Max Constant. The Red’s opening lineup this week will be a familiar one. This will be Constant’s third time competing in the National tournament, and the second time for sophomore starters Connor Pardell and Branden Van Loon. “We like where we are right now,” Constant said. “It’s just that time of the year. We know what we have to do, we know that we’re good enough [and] we know that we deserve to be here — it’s just about going out there and taking care of business.”

Original Author: Laura Dwulet