October 17, 2011

POLO | Men, Women Kick Off Fall Schedule With Early Wins

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With a pair of blowout victories under their mallets, the men’s and women’s polo teams have a lot to look forward to in the season ahead. On Saturday, the defending national champion women earned a dominating win against UMass, 36-1, with the men following suite on Sunday with a 44-0 victory over Skidmore. While both teams kicked the year off with strong performances, the polo season is only just beginning.Although the men’s and women’s squads will feature many returning players, there are still some new faces this season. Head coach David Eldredge and his veteran players are pleased with the newcomers. According to junior Connor Pardell, the new players on the men’s team were able to adjust very quickly in Sunday’s contest. “I got in probably the best class of freshmen players that I have ever gotten,” Eldredge said of his freshmen. “[They are] automatically raising the talent level of this team.”“It was my first varsity game … so that was kind of overwhelming,” said sophomore Madeline Olberg, who previously played on the first year polo. Still, Eldredge has been very happy with Olberg’s performance thus far.  “She’s been learning quickly and been doing quite well,” he noted. Olberg is one of the players whom Eldredge is looking at to possibly fill the third starter spot this season. A starter has not been named at this point, so there has been plenty of shifting and rotating in order to try out different players.Despite the challenges that come with starting a new season, the Minutemen were no match for the Red.“We kind of ran away with it,” Eldredge said.“We all stepped up to the plate … We were able to hold onto the ball a lot and keep on the offensive,” Olberg added. On the men’s side, the Red also enjoyed a strong performance in its matchup with the Thoroughbreds. Junior captain Branden Van Loon particularly enjoys playing against Skidmore.“They’re just a good group of kids that are really fun to play with,” he said. “All of their players are playing [polo] because they enjoy it.”Van Loon also emphasized the benefits of playing in different arenas that do not have the same size and feel as the Red’s home turf — Cornell’s Oxley Equestrian Center. “We have to be able to compete successfully in almost any situation that can be thrown at us.”The Red returns to action this weekend for a rematch of last season’s USPA National Championship game. The Cornell men and women travel to Charlottesville, Va. to take on the Virginia Cavaliers, who Eldredge called the No.1 polo team in the country. The men fell to UVA in last year’s final, 28-14, while the women won the championship with an 18-10 victory to end the season unbeaten with a record of 21-0. Still, both squads know that they are in for a challenge. According to Van Loon, the Red and the Cavaliers do not typically meet until later in the season. Eldredge added that Virginia is entering the season with a team fully intact from a year ago, while the Cornell squads still have to work on integrating their new members. “The players are starting to understand their roles, but we also know that we’re not at that point yet where we’re going to be the most competitive,” Eldredge said.“They’re always a tough competitor,” Van Loon added. “We’re really going to have to play the best game that we can put out on the field.”

Original Author: Ariel Cooper