The men and women’s polo teams are expecting a strong weekend coming off the Bill Field invitational. The Cornell women’s team (4-2) and men’s team (4-3) will be competing in their first Ivy matchups of the season against the Yale men (3-3) and women (3-4). The men play Friday at 7 p.m. and the women play Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Oxley Equestrian center.
On both sides, the Yale polo program has failed to be fully competitive for a number of years, but that could change this year, according to head coach David Eldredge ’81.
“This year is the first year — especially on the men’s side — that they’re doing better,” he said. “The [Yale] women have some sophomores who have a bit more experience under their belt … But they won’t stack up against our first string.”
Eldredge said the game strategy is to bench most of the starters, and give the second string players a chance to begin the game. The first unit will mix with the second group, giving the players an opportunity to ride alongside different teammates.
Senior captain Ali Hoffman added that the Yale match will be a good practice game for the women, who have not had as much playing time this season. However, she does not see Yale as a pushover game.
“They really surprised me during the [Bill] Field tournament,” she said. “They were very aggressive, which you don’t see from upcoming teams as much. They just don’t have the strength and the ability to finish games off. That’s what’s holding them back.”
The men’s team is optimistic about its matchup with Yale, but the limited practice time this week could make things a bit tougher on the Red, according to junior Branden Van Loon. Cornell is only guaranteed one practice this week, the captain said, which means that the team will have to come out aggressive on Friday.
“Yale is a team that does not have a new program,” he said. “They are definitely a team that we’re not going to check out of. It’s not a pity game, and we’re going to put our best foot forward.”
Eldredge said he plans to execute a similar game plan with the men as he intends to with the women by starting some second string members with the first group.
For both the men and women, the Yale game provides a great opportunity to focus on the mistakes made during the Field invite.
“Inexperienced teams tend to get really cluttered, so we will have to work on not getting caught up in that,” Hoffman said.
Eldridge is hoping that the teams can work out some of the kinks before facing tougher competition.
“Key things we need to work on are our throw ins got too offensive when they need to be more defensive,” he said. “We’re not finishing as efficiently as we need to compete against those top tier teams.”
Consistency is a factor the Cornell women are focusing on this season, and the Yale game is another opportunity to work on getting out quick and remaining so for the rest of the game.
“We’ve had ups and downs this season, but consistency is starting to pick up.” Hoffman said. “We’re focused on not getting caught up in what Yale is doing on the field, setting the pace and keeping it moving.”
Although Yale has a more inexperienced team than Cornell, the Red is not planning on going into the game thinking it will be easy.
“Anyone has the ability to take another team on the field,” Van Loon said.
Original Author: Andrea Sielicki