Head coach david Eldredge ’81 gave some of the Cornell starters on the men’s and women’s polo teams a rest over the weekend against Skidmore, allowing other varsity members a chance to get on the field. The men defeated the Thoroughbreds, 18-5, and the women won 21-6 at the Oxley Equestrian Center. Next weekend, both squads will leave Ithaca to face No. 1-ranked Virginia.
The men (7-4) sat usual starters, junior captain Branden Van Loon and sophomore Nick Feldman, instead playing varsity members junior Justin Schick and sophomore Emerson Bilodeau along with freshman and regular starter Nik Stieg. In the second chukker, junior Connor Pardell, sophomore Tate Lavitt and freshman Alex Langlois finished out the game. Stieg led the Red with six goals, followed by Pardell, who registered three.
“The game gave some really good experience to people who don’t get to play as many games,” Van Loon said.
David Eldredge said that he did not think he would gain a lot by playing the starters since he already saw what they can do against Skidmore from the fall matchup. Cornell and Skidmore (2-6) last met in October and the team of Pardell, Feldman, Stieg and Van Loon overpowered the Thoroughbreds in a 44-0 shutout.
The women (8-4) have a similar season record against Skidmore (3-8), a team the Red beat twice in November — once during regular play and again in the Bill Field Invitational. During Friday’s game, senior captain Ali Hoffman, senior Amanda Stern and sophomore Kailey Eldredge started for the Red — earning Cornell a 14-point lead by the end of the first half, with junior Kristen Russomanno subbing in for Hoffman in the second chukker.
“We started off really well. That was good for Amanda, Ali and I. Starting strong is important for next week,” Kailey Eldredge said, alluding to next week’s match against UVA.
The second half of the game was played by senior Brittany Cox and sophomore Beth LeBow, with Hoffman and Russomanno again switching off between the third and fourth chukker. Kailey Eldredge led the team with 12 goals — all scored in the first half — followed by four goals from Stern.
Both teams will head down to Charlottesville, Va. this weekend to compete against the Cavaliers, a squad currently ranked first nationally for the men and women. The UVA men are the defending national champions, while the women lost to Cornell last year in the final round. The match against Skidmore provided the Red a chance to work on game technique before facing tougher competition, according to Van Loon. The junior captain said against tough teams like Virginia, there is no time to contemplate plays.
“Skidmore gave Connor and Stieg an opportunity to work on perfecting simple things and establishing muscle memory,” he said.
Since the men had off last week, and this week Van Loon and Feldman sat out, the junior captain expressed some concern about being rusty against Virginia.
“I would honestly prefer the option to get another game in before UVA, but at the same time we’re playing at the national level and [David Eldredge] set up this game schedule to test us,” Van Loon said. “I think it’s going to be a very big challenge but I think there’s going to be a lot of improve on.”
The men played against the Cavaliers in the fall, losing, 17-10. This week in practice, Cornell will focus on fixing some issues to prepare for heavy competition.
“The men still have plays where we basically suck and allow the other team back into the game,” David Eldredge said. “That’s the sign of a young team.”
He adds, however, that the men are a different team.
“Now we have an identity so we’re hoping that we can play with that identity,” he said.
The women face Virginia for the second time this season since losing to the team earlier in the fall, 19-9. Kailey Eldredge said since that time, the Red has become a different team and has had time to improve.
“We’re looking to keep up our speed and aggression,” she said. “We want to keep up with these girls and not feel like we’re catching up all the time.”
According to Kailey Eldredge, the women want to further team unity and improve on consistency.
“We’re working to continue to improve in knowledge in one another,” she said. “The women are not the same team at the point in the fall that we are now.”
The Cornell men and women face UVA this weekend, playing on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.
Original Author: Andrea Sielicki