October 23, 2012

POLO | Women Defeat Defending Champ UVA

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It was a successful weekend for the women’s polo team, as the Red topped defending national champion UVA in a shootout. The men’s team did not fare as well, falling to the Cavaliers, 15-6, after a tough first half.

The women’s team lifted its record to 2-0 with the 13-12 upset win. Despite leading the Cavaliers after each of the first three chukkers, the Red squandered a 9-7 advantage in the fourth and had to come from behind to send the game into the shootout. Trailing by a goal with under a minute remaining, freshman Devin Cox lined up for a penalty shot. Though the shot popped back out, junior captain Kailey Eldredge managed to tap in the rebound to equalize the game.

The shootout lasted three rounds, with Eldredge scoring in all three. Her goal in the third round proved to be the only one scored by either team, securing the victory for the Red. Eldredge finished with nine goals, while Cox, who replaced senior captain Ali Hoffman for the second half, scored two and freshman starter Anna Winslow scored one.

Despite leading the Red in goals, Eldredge said the game was a team effort and that more practice will help team members learn other players’ style.

“In the game it felt like we were all contributing really well,” she said. “We’ve got plenty of time to figure each other out.”

According to head coach David Eldredge ’81, the game’s close result is indicative of the strength of Cornell and UVA’s programs.

“It does say a lot about the tenacity of both teams,” he said. “UVA is a team who has been together for a few years and they’re going to be a tough team right to the very end. [This game] makes a very good statement for us because we were able to go down there and play them as well as we did and come out with a victory.”

The women’s team last played UVA in April, when the Red’s surprise appearance in the national championship game ended with a 17-13 loss to the Cavaliers. The men also last faced UVA in April, losing 10-28 in the national semifinals.

The men’s team (1-1) kept the game closer in this season’s match-up, holding the game to 15-6. Although UVA only had a slim 4-2 lead after the first chukker, a five-goal spree by the Cavaliers in the second had the Red trailing, 9-2, heading into halftime. An energized Cornell team emerged after the half and managed to tally four goals while keeping UVA to just six.

“The first half, the guys were over-thinking things a little bit rather than going out and playing and reacting and doing what they’ve been doing in practices and letting the game happen,” David Eldredge said. “It bogged them down because they were analyzing stuff too much rather than letting themselves react to what was happening. We sat down at halftime and talked a lot about that aspect of it and went out at the half and played like the team I’ve been working with all year.”

Junior captain Nik Feldman, who returned to the starting lineup after missing the first game due to injury, added that the final half of the game helped to boost the team’s confidence.

“Second half, when it was their best players against us, we were able to play them to within two, which is something that very few teams have been able to do,” he said. “That was very encouraging and definitely gave us some hope looking forward that we’ll be able to compete closely against UVA, especially when it matters down the road.”

The men aim to carry this momentum into Sunday’s away game against UConn, who beat Cornell, 22-21, to take the USPA regional title last season. UConn graduated all three of its starters from last season, while the Red maintains its whole squad. According Feldman, this difference will play heavily towards the Red’s advantage.

“Especially at the collegiate level, polo experience carries a lot of weight,” he said. “[UConn is] a team down the line that could become a good team, but as the first year together we can’t expect them to do too much.”

Graduation and injury also affect the women’s Sunday home match-up against the University of Kentucky. The Wildcats lost one player to graduation, but return another top player who missed last season because of injury, making the game hard to predict, David Eldredge said.

“They’re a question mark at this particular point,” he said. “It’s going to be very interesting. We’re walking into this expecting a tough match—how it actually pans out we’re going to have to wait and see. They’re a bit of an unknown quantity at this point.”

For Kailey Eldredge, the game marks another chance for the team to improve by playing at a high level.

“I’m glad that we’re going to have some more competition,” she said. “I’m hoping that we’ll still be able to play better and it would be great to win again this weekend.”

Original Author: Emily Berman