The men and women’s polo teams had different outcomes this weekend against Southern Methodist, but for both squads it came down to the presence of constant communication. The women pulled off a runaway win, defeating the Mustangs, 23-8, but the men were unable to close, losing by a final score of 17-15 at the Oxley Equestrian Center.On Friday night the men’s team (5-4) started out the first two chukkers strong, ending the first half with a lead of three points. It was in the third chukker where the team started to fade, according to junior captain Branden Van Loon.“The biggest contributing factor to the loss was in the second half, the team fell a little flat in communication and started to dwindle,” he said.SMU was able to tie up the score, 12-12, by the end of the third chukker. Despite two opportunities on penalty shots to tie up the score, Cornell was not able to make up the difference. Van Loon asserts that low energy played a role in the loss.“I think fatigue got a little bit of the better of us. Being slightly out of practice got the better of us,” he said.Playing tired may have affected the on-field communication, which, according to the senior captain, is crucial to playing well. “If we’re not communicating, there’s no way we can expect to play together as a team, especially when we’re going so fast and working with three other team members plus the horses,” Van Loon said. “As we get tired, we have a tendency to close off from the other two players and play more individualistically. We’re really focusing on getting our stamina up so we avoid this problem in the future.”The Cornell women (6-3) played a similar first half to the men on Saturday night, starting out slowly, but the team had its strongest performance in the third chukker. The squad doubled the score to 18 — stopping the Mustangs from adding a single goal to their first half score of five. In the fourth chukker, the Red scored an additional five goals.“We’re defending national champions, and we came out with this mindset that this is our house,” said senior Amanda Stern. “We’re defending and protecting our house with our fans.”Sophomore Kailey Eldredge led the team, scoring 15 of the 23 goals. Penalty shots were a contributing factor to this high number, according to senior captain Ali Hoffman.
“The points I think really closed for Kailey were being able to convert the fouls they committed into points for our team,” she said. “She’s pretty awesome at foul shots and we were happy we had so many opportunities to use them.”
Alongside Eldredge and Hoffman, Stern earned the start in her first game since returning from abroad. She contributed three goals to the team effort, and helped to increase the level of play.
“Kailey and Ali are the two stronger girls on the team and obviously they have been playing twice as long as I have, but we were reading each other really well, talking a lot, which is insanely important, and anticipating where one another were going to be with our horses,” Stern said. “We made some really good plays and had some good rotations around the arena.”Stern may be the solid third player the women’s team has been looking for based on aggressiveness and riding ability, according to Hoffman.“She’s a very strong individual and she’s got a strong intimidation factor,” Hoffman said. “She can get on horses that are pretty hard to make do what you want and can really clear out plays in front of us. We really liked that we have a more open game, I think she’ll definitely be a good aspect.”Similar to the men’s team, even though the game went well, communication is something that the Red wants to improve on, according to the two seniors.“We kind of spent too much time during the game to figure out where each other were, like where everyone else was on the team,” Hoffman said. “We would kind of get bunched up on each other and get in each other’s way because we weren’t talking. I think that’s just something that’s going to come with more practicing and getting back into the routine that we had established last semester.”“I definitely have to work on tuning into [Eldredge and Hoffman’s] voices,” Stern added.Hoffman says playing against SMU gave Cornell some experience with the different playing styles they will face in future opponents.“Their playing style is much different from the northeast region, they had a much more open style of riding and they could run with us,” she said. “They had big shots and I think it was nice to get that style of play because we don’t necessarily get that all the time up here. I think playing them was a good experience and it will help us when we go to play A&M in a couple months.”This weekend, the Red will face Garrison Forest (1-0) at home.
Original Author: Andrea Sielicki