November 19, 2012

POLO | Women Earn First at Invitiational, Men Fall in Semifinals

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The women’s polo team captured first place and the men also fared well in the Bill Field Invitational held this past week at Oxley Equestrian Center. The women came from behind to eke out the championship win against UVA, while the men missed out on an appearance in the finals after a narrow loss to Colorado State.Although the tournament began on Wednesday, Cornell didn’t face an opponent until Friday afternoon, when the women’s team stomped on UMass, 28-6. The Red last faced UMass for its season opener in October, which ended in a 37-1 blowout for Cornell.Saturday’s match against the University of Kentucky proved to be much closer. The women defeated the Wildcats by nearly 20 goals in October, but Kentucky was missing one of its starters for that game. This time around, the Red came away with a 20-12 win, buoyed by an eight-goal advantage following the first chukker.    “They were definitely stronger than when we played them earlier in the season,” said junior captain Kailey Eldredge. “I was really glad to have some good competition pushing us.”The win against Kentucky sent Cornell into the finals, where it faced defending national champions UVA, a team it had beaten in a shootout earlier in the season.The championship game started slowly for the Red. After tallying the first goal, the Red fell behind, 3-1, following the Cavaliers’ two-point shot. Cornell and UVA traded goals until another two-point shot gave the Cavaliers a 6-3 lead after the first chukker.UVA started strong in the second chukker, scoring two goals within the first minute. The game was halted for several minutes, however, after a nasty collision on the wall sent Cornell starting freshman Anna Winslow and her horse to the ground. Winslow, who suffered several bruises but was otherwise unharmed, managed to walk off the arena and was replaced by freshman Devin Cox.Following the delay, Eldredge scored a penalty shot to bring the game to 8-4, and Cox saved several goals in a row, once by chasing down a UVA player and twice by clearing the ball from in front of the goal.A three-goal spree by the Cavaliers, however, had the Red down 11-4 with two minutes remaining in the second chukker. Unfazed, the Red began to claw its way back. Eldredge scored another penalty shot, then a backshot from Cox sent the ball to wide-open senior captain Ali Hoffman, who galloped down the field alone to tap in another goal.  Eldredge’s next goal was followed again by Hoffman, whose shot in the final minute from behind the half-line dribbled in for two points and wrapped up the half with the Red only trailing 11-9.“We just didn’t really get our game going at the beginning, we were kind of discombobulated a little bit,” said head coach David Eldredge ’81. “My thought was, we’re just going to keep at it and see what happens … I had never given up on them and they had the ability to come back and they managed to do that. The major turning point was when Ali Hoffman hit the two-pointer — that really kind of gave us a shot of adrenaline and really woke us up and got us going really well. When that went in, that made it real to the girls that we are in this.”Despite the momentum from the five-goal spree at the end of the second chukker, the game slowed down considerably in the third chukker as UVA was unable to stay out of foul trouble. The Red tallied several goals off of penalty shots but ended the chukker still down by two.The Red finally broke the game open in the third chukker behind strong play from Cox. UVA scored in the opening seconds, but Eldredge tapped in the rebound off a shot from Cox to bring the game back to within two. Cornell scored again, then Cox blasted in four straight goals to give Cornell a three-goal lead, its first advantage of the game since the opening minute. A final goal for the Red ended the game with a 20-16 victory.“I expect every game against UVA to be this close,” David Eldredge said. “They’re a very good team, we’re a good team.”Kailey Eldredge added that because the team was behind so early, this game required a different mentality than the last game against UVA.“You have to focus on not letting the pressure get to you cause you’re down five goals or something,” she said. “I was really glad our team was able to stay calm and work together and make that kind of comeback because that can be really difficult.”Although the men didn’t reach the finals, they put forth a strong effort during the Invitational. The Red opened the tournament with an easy 28-13 win over Skidmore, a team it had beaten 19-17 in its season opener. The win sent them into a match-up with Colorado State, one of the top teams in the nation.Similar to the women’s championship game, the match started slowly for Cornell. Colorado State jumped out to a five goal lead within the first few minutes, but the Red was able to fight its way back to end the chukker down by just a few goals. The Red then dominated play in the second chukker and ended the half leading the Rams, which junior captain Nik Feldman called “a boost of confidence.”The back-and-forth contest continued in the third and fourth chukkers, with the Red nearly forcing a tie in the final seconds. In the concluding moments, with Colorado State ahead by one, Cornell was awarded a penalty shot from the Rams’ zone. The shot nearly went in, but the ensuing play was controlled by the Rams, ending the Red’s chances of hammering in an equalizing goal.Despite the loss, the game gave the Red hope for the national tournament. Colorado State faced defending national champions UVA in the Invitational final but lost in the final ten seconds, a game mirroring the match between the Red and the Rams.­­“Between the top three teams, anybody can really win [the national title] this year,” Feldman said. “We’ll all be looking over our shoulders.”

Original Author: Emily Berman