April 9, 2012

POLO | Cornell Men, Women Ride Past Texas A&M Aggies

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Heat and hurt horses posed challenges for Cornell this past weekend in College Station, Texas, where the men’s and women’s teams played Texas A&M; however, the unfavorable circumstances could not hold back the Red. The men (10-7) and women (12-5) both rode past the Aggies, 10-7 and 13-10, respectively.

The Aggies and the Cornell men started out on equal footings after the first chukker, scoring four goals apiece. In the second chukker, Cornell made some rearrangements on the field and was able to secure a lead, making the halftime score 7-5.

“We were making some excellent defensive plays,” said head coach David Eldredge ’81.

The men held onto the lead in the third chukker, finishing with a score of 10-7. This score became the final tally, mainly due in part to two A&M horses being injured with no replacement horses available. The game ended one chukker early.

On the women’s side, Cornell came from behind to win in the fourth chukker. The first chukker, like the men, ended in a tie, 3-3. The Aggies took the lead by halftime, putting the Red in a four-goal deficit. The third chukker was a defensive battle, as each team only scored one goal; however, the women were still down entering the fourth chukker. The squad finished strong by shutting out A&M with seven goals, finalizing the game’s score, 13-10.

“I think we out-hustled them in the fourth chukker,” said senior Amanda Stern.

Eldredge said that the women’s game proved to the team that it is capable of coming from behind to win a contest.

“The girls didn’t let up or get bothered by being down four goals,” he said. “They came back very strong and showed themselves and made it obvious we’re never out of the game at any point; you can always turn it around.”

The women’s Texas A&M team will be traveling to Ithaca the following weekend to compete in the national tournament along with Cornell, so both teams were holding back in the weekend’s contest, according to senior captain Ali Hoffman.

“We treated it as a warm-up game, since neither team wanted to go out super intense since the [national] rankings are out,” she said.

The arena in College Station, being much bigger than Oxley Equestrian Center, added another element to the game.

“It was really good to play in an arena larger than ours,” said senior captain Branden Van Loon. “There was a growth in adaptation to playing styles, we were able to change our playing style without changing our core playing strategy.”

The larger arena also caused the score to be lower than it normally is for games played in Oxley, which made the game more defensive than normal, according to Van Loon.

“There was so much more room to play and much more space for people to make good defensive plays,” he said. “Our typical Cornell off-wall plays were difficult to make. The openness of the game pushed us to increase anticipation of long balls.”

Another factor that the teams rarely face in Ithaca is the extreme Texan heat and humidity; however, Hoffman thought the women handled it well.

“Many timeouts were called so we were able to rest ourselves; we adjusted very well to the heat, and I think it’s a testament for our training and how hard we’ve been working,” she said.

The games were Cornell’s first time down to Texas A&M this season, so adjusting to the new horses was a necessity for the teams.

“I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the Texas A&M horses; there were definitely some that posed a challenge, but they were great overall,” Van Loon said.

Hoffman added that the new horses were not an excuse to ride or play poorly.

“No matter what we’re mounted on we need to be able to respond, so this was good experience,” she said.

Next up for the Red is a week of practice before the national tournament, hosted by Cornell, that starts on April 18.

Original Author: Andrea Sielicki