More than two months after its last game, the men’s polo team was back in action this past Friday against Skidmore at Oxley Equestrian center. Despite surrendering the first goal, the Red soon jumped ahead of the Thoroughbreds and eventually claimed a 28-9 blowout victory.
The Red was originally scheduled to play Southern Methodist University last weekend for its first game of the semester, but the Mustangs men’s team was unable to make the game after the cancellation of its flight into Ithaca. The women’s team played, however, and secured an easy 27-3 win over the Mustangs. After playing last weekend, the women had the weekend off to rest up before the next set of games.
Although the men’s game against Skidmore was the Red’s first competitive match-up in months, head coach David Eldredge ’81 said that the team was quickly able to shake off the rust from break.
“They actually looked very good,” he said. “The first chukker, there was a little bit of rust, but they’d had a little more time to prepare than the women before they played their first game … they definitely performed right up to my expectations of what I was looking for.”
Senior captain Branden Van Loon added that the team’s slow start was partly a result of the level of play of the Skidmore team.
“The team has a little bit of difficulty adapting to the slower style of play that we were playing with the Skidmore team,” he said. “All in all, after the first chukker that resolved pretty nicely.”
The game was the men’s third face-off against Skidmore. The Red topped the Thoroughbreds, 19-17, in its season opener despite missing junior captain Nik Feldman, then beat Skidmore again one month later, 28-13. This latest match-up marked the Red’s largest margin of victory against the Thoroughbreds.
“It’s definitely a reflection of the improvement of how the team has grown over the past several months,” Van Loon said.
The Red was scheduled to play Yale next weekend at Oxley, but a horse virus that has spread through the barn forced the cancellation of the upcoming games. The virus is similar to the common cold and the games were cancelled partly to reduce the risk of the virus being carried to other team’s barns, according to Eldredge.
“We don’t want to infect anyone else either … It’s a precautionary thing as much as anything,” he said.
Van Loon said that by allowing the horses to rest, the team hoped to reduce the effect of the illness.
“We still have a lot of the season left to go, so the goal is that we nip this in the bud and the program will be affected minimally,” he said. “When we have colds, we don’t perform as well, so it’s not fair of us to expect the horses to perform when they’re sick.”
After the cancellation of the Yale games, the next matches on the schedule are home games against the University of Virginia, one of the Red’s toughest competitors. Eldredge said he does not think the horses’ illness or the cancelled games will hurt the Red when the teams take on the Cavaliers.
“I don’t think it’s going to affect the teams that way,” he said. “It’s more of a bummer of a situation for the Yale squad, not getting to come up and play us which is something we were kind of looking forward to.”
Original Author: Emily Berman