After a long hiatus, the men’s and women’s polo teams will both return to Oxley Equestrian center this weekend to take on Southern Methodist University on Friday and Saturday, respectively. The women enter the match with a flawless 10-0 record, while the men ride into the competition with a mark of 6-2.
Both teams rested over break and returned to practice only this week.
According to head coach David Eldredge ’81, the long time away from polo was intended to help the athletes recover.
“I cut them loose over the winter break and let them just go and rest up and heal up anything, maybe bumps and bruises, then I bring them back,” he said. “Right now, [it’s] just knocking off the rust a bit in the couple practices we have. It’s just a matter of getting their timing back a bit. There’s going to be a little bit of rust during this game.”
The men last played a game together in late November when the Red topped the Baltimore Polo Club, 17-15, at home. The win against the Baltimore squad came on the heels of a close 24-23 loss to Colorado State in the semifinals of the Bill Field Invitational. Junior captain Nik Feldman said he wants to carry the team’s strong performances from the end of the fall season into the spring semester.
“Honestly, I like how we were playing. We just need to continue that,” he said. “We had that tough loss to Colorado State by only a goal. That was a spectacular team we lost to.”
Last year, both Red squads also played SMU to open the spring semester. Despite a strong first half, the men’s team ultimately fell to SMU, 17-15. Winning the opening match is important to the team, Feldman said.
“It would be good to start on a high note and confidence going into the latter half of the season is very important,” he said. “It’s definitely a game we want to win. I think we want to start the season back again on the right foot.”
On the women’s side, the Red trampled the Mustangs, 23-8, in last season’s January game, led by junior captain Kailey Eldredge’s 15-goal performance. Although that match-up proved competitive in the first half, with the Red leading only 9-5, Cornell added nine goals in the third chukker alone to break the game wide open.
Coach David Eldredge said that although SMU is a strong team, the Mustangs might not be at the same level as the highly-skilled Cornell women’s team.
“We expect a challenge, but we don’t expect them to be at the level of UVA,. They’re sort of the next tier down from UVA and us,” he said. “If we trip over our own toes, they’re going to be there to make things happen, [but] I don’t expect that to happen with the girls we have playing now.”
Following this weekend’s games, both teams take on the Cavaliers next weekend in a tough matchup for both teams. Feldman cautioned, however, against looking past SMU to the game against top-ranked UVA.
“[The match against SMU] is not a warm-up game at all,” he said. “It’s a very meaningful game. If they beat us they get ahead of us in the ranking and we don’t want that … They’re going to be good.”
Original Author: Emily Berman