April 2, 2012

POLO | Women Win Regional Title; Men Named Runners-Up

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The Cornell women finished the regional tournament Sunday as champions for the northeast regional tournament, securing the team’s spot in the national tournament and winning its fourth consecutive regional title after defeating UConn, 24-18. Though the men finished as runner-up to  UConn after losing by one goal, 22-21, at the very end of the game, it is likely that the Red will advance to nationals via a wildcard spot.

The tournament started on Friday for the women (11-5), who opened up against Harvard, defeating them soundly, 20-8. The Red took control of the game from the beginning, leading at the half, 14-1. It was a team effort as sophomores Beth Lebow and Kailey Eldredge, junior Kristen Russomanno and seniors Amanda Stern and Ali Hoffman all contributed on the field and to the score.

The men opened up their portion of the tournament on Saturday to Skidmore, beating the Thoroughbreds in a blowout, 37-6. The men owed the sound victory to a combined team effort from freshmen Alex Langlois and Nick Stieg, sophomore Nik Feldman, juniors Justin Schnick and Connor Pardell and senior captain Branden Van Loon. In the second half, Skidmore was able to score just one goal.

“I think we started off very well; it was completely a warm-up game for us in the regional finals,” Pardell said. “That was great for the younger guys to get that kind of exposure.”

The UConn men and women defeated Harvard and Skidmore too, making the games on Sunday between UConn and Cornell the regional championships.

In the women’s game, Cornell was out quick; however, UConn led the first chukker with a one-point lead. By the half, the Red had a five-goal scoring spree, putting the squad into the lead, 13-11. The women were able to maintain this lead for the remainder of the game, as Kailey Eldredge scored two two-point shots during the game. The second shot put Cornell into a strong position to win at the end of the game.

“[The victory] was solidified a little bit more,” Eldredge said. “I was pretty excited after that goal.”

That two-pointer was one of Eldredge’s 15 goals in the regional final. The match-up against the Cornell and UConn women was fairly close, but endurance may have been a key factor in securing the win.

“I think I was impressed that we kept up with our stamina really well,” Eldredge said. “I think that helped us. Maybe UConn got tired, but I wouldn’t say we played any better than them.”

The men also emerged with a fast start. However, UConn was able to stage a comeback against Cornell.

The Red ended the first chukker with a nine-point lead, and held that lead to 12-9 by halftime. The third chukker was strong again, and the men increased Cornell’s lead back up to six points, making the score 20-14. However, in the fourth chukker, UConn managed to tally a few goals, surpassing the Red with just one minute left. The final score ended with the men losing the regional title by one point. Despite the loss, the men said they felt that they put in a good effort.

“We went out and played the way we wanted to,” Feldman said. “I wouldn’t have played the game any differently.”

A key factor that may have made a difference in the game play during the fourth chukker was UConn’s horses. The Huskies brought two horses that Cornell had never previously ridden to the tournament.

“They ended up brining two horses that they didn’t even own when we played them during the fall and it was really unexpected,” said senior captain Van Loon. “The playing style of those two horses was very different from anything I’ve sat on on the polo field.”

Although the men rode on the horses during the first chukker, it is difficult to get to know a horse from that limited experience, according to Van Loon. A crucial change to the game in the fourth chukker came when Van Loon and Pardell switched horses.

“In hindsight I think we should have stayed on the horses we started on – that might have made a difference for us,” Van Loon said.

Feldman also said that the new horses slightly disrupted Cornell’s game.

“I think it was a difference of horses,” he said. “I’ve never been in a game like that before, their horse were pretty difficult for us.”

Next up for the Red is the last regular game of the season against Texas A&M in College Station, Texas this weekend.

Original Author: Andrea Sielicki