November 21, 2011

POLO | Cornell Falls Short of Finals

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It was a successful weekend for both the men and women as they competed in the Bill Field Invitational tournament at Oxley Equestrian Center held from Wednesday to Saturday. Although neither squad reached the championship, the women dominated Skidmore College, 23-2, and the men defeated Kentucky, 20-12, on Wednesday.

On Saturday both teams fell in close games against nationally ranked competition, ending the road to the finals.

The women’s squad started out strong against Skidmore, looking to recharge its batteries after losing to UConn the previous weekend.

“It went really well for us,” said senior Ali Hoffman,who led the team with nine goals against Skidmore. “We had a couple different combinations of players, which gave a couple girls some playing time that they hadn’t seen previously.”

The game against Kentucky came down to a shoot-out at the finish, with the Wildcats coming out on top. The Red struggled with a slow start, but caught up to Kentucky in the second chukker, finally connecting and flowing as a team.

“There was a bit of a rough patch in the third chukker but we had a really good run during the fourth chukker. We stayed calm and didn’t let them get to us. They were kind of controlling the tempo during the game, which is usually what we do,” Hoffman said.

Cornell failed to score in overtime, and Kentucky was able to pull out one goal to take the win and advance to the championship game; however, the Wildcats fell to the same Virginia squad that lost to the Red in last year’s national title game.

The Cornell men posted a weekend mirroring the performance on the women’s side, coming out strong on Wednesday against Kentucky, while playing a tight defensive game — the Wildcats only scored two goals in the second half.

“Going into the second half we really had to refocus ourselves and settle down and play our game as we know how to,” said junior Branden Van Loon, who scored nine goals against Kentucky.

Cornell’s matchup with Colorado State produced a less favorable outcome for the Red, but the team’s level of play was still up to par, according to sophomore Nik Feldman.

“We played even better in the Colorado game. Colorado is a very experienced team and very physical,” he said. “A lot of teams have a very frustrating time against them. We stayed very focused in our game plan and we came out really strong, unlike the Kentucky game.”

This season marks Feldman’s return to polo after three years of sitting out due to various injuries.

Cornell narrowly faltered against Colorado State, 25-22, but the team maintains that it kept its composure against a very physically aggressive team, Feldman said.

“We stayed calm and confident throughout our game,” he explained. “That we almost topped the best team in collegiate polo — UVA — says something good that we were able compete against those teams.”

After failing to reach the finals, the Red recognizes that it is still early in the year, and that the quality of playing will only improve as the season progresses.

“[It is] good to see these mistakes now rather than later [when we are] preparing for nationals — easy to make but easy to fix,” Van Loon said.

Both the men and women were pleased with how they competed against these top-tier teams and now have their attention turned toward the future, specifically the Northeast regional meet, according to Feldman and Hoffman.

“In hindsight, considering how well Colorado did [in the final], we were happy how close the competition was, and we will definitely be seeing them later on in the year,” Feldman said.

“Our focus is getting to regionals and winning the northeast regional championship,” said Hoffman.

The men and women will compete next against Yale at home on Dec. 3.

Original Author: Andrea Sielicki