March 26, 2013

POLO | Red Captures Regional Titles, Players Honored

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The men’s and women’s polo teams took home the regional titles this past weekend at the regional championship tournament held at Oxley Equestrian Center. The men crushed Brown University, 32-2, on Friday before topping UConn, 28-12, in Sunday’s final; the women beat Harvard, 29-8, on Saturday before riding to an easy victory over Skidmore, 27-4, in the finals the following day. The women’s win was the team’s fifth consecutive regional title. The victories in the regional competition guarantee each team an automatic bid to the national championships in mid-April. The women currently stand as the No. 1 seed for the national tournament, while the men head into the championships at No. 3 behind No. 2 Colorado State and No. 1 UVA.The men’s victory in the final over UConn this year comes after last season’s one-goal loss to the Huskies in last year’s regional final. In last year’s game, the Red held the lead for the majority of the game, but lost after UConn scored a flurry of goals in the final chukker. UConn graduated its entire starting lineup, however, so the team the Red faced this year was entirely new.“There’s nothing much to compare to last year’s team; [last year’s team] was really spectacular altogether,” junior captain Nik Feldman said. “But they had a good team this year; they especially took us by surprise in the first half.”Although the men had beaten the Huskies handily earlier this season, the match started slowly for the Red as it fell behind 2-1 early. The team ended the first chukker up 7-4,  but fell behind 9-8 in the second chukker before rallying to finish the half leading 10-9.Regular started Nick Steig sat out the first half for the Red due to a stomach illness and was replaced by senior Connor Pardell. Steig entered the game for the second half and the Red quickly sped ahead of the Huskies, although head coach David Eldredge ’81 was quick to praise Pardell’s play.“Connor did very well in the first half,” he said. “He went out and did himself proud. He did very well for himself and the team.”Feldman noted that UConn’s mindset going into the game may have aided the Huskies’ strong first half performance.“I think the mentality going into the game was that we weren’t worried, and they had nothing to lose,” he said. “They went full-out. They did an excellent job — hats off to them.”In the third chukker, Cornell topped UConn 10-1 and added eight more goals in the fourth for the commanding final victory.The women’s team, which is currently undefeated against collegiate opponents, easily won both games on the weekend. Eldredge said he was pleased with the team’s play.“I was quite happy with how they performed,” he said. “We went into it feeling confident winning and getting the bid, but at the same time, you never want to take anybody for granted. You can’t go in and halfway it.”In the final against Skidmore, the women took a 9-1 lead in the first chukker and added four more in the second chukker for a 13-1 half-time score. The Red led 18-3 after the third chukker, then outscored the Thoroughbreds 9-1 in the final chukker. The Red rotated senior captain Ali Hoffman, junior captain Kailey Eldredge, and freshmen Devin Cox and Anna Winslow throughout the game, with each one playing three chukkers. Cox led the team with 10 goals, while Hoffman followed close behind with nine tallies.

Besides first place, the team also took home many awards at the tournament. Senior captain Branden Van Loon, Feldman, Steig, Hoffman, Eldredge and Cox all were awarded Northeast Regional All-Star honors. Women’s alternate Beth LeBow took home the Region Sportsmanship award, and the team also won  some Best Pony and Best String awards.

“I’m very happy. Obviously, we went into it feeling pretty good about things,” Eldredge said. “Taking three of our awards for things just states how good we’ve been in this regionals and this year. This is votedon by all the teams in the reigion as well as USPA officials. It’s something you look at and you take as a high compliment when your [peers] vote you in that strongly.”Both the men and  women’s team will head down to Charlottesville, Va., to take on UVA this weekend. The women have beaten the No. 2 UVA team twice this season, including in a victory in the final of the Bill Field Invitational, while the men suffered one of their two losses of the season to the Cavaliers back in October.“The game this weekend is going to be more similar to the caliber of team’s we’ll be playing against [in the national tournament],” Feldman said. “Playing a team that may be slightly better than [Colorado State, the Red’s first-round opponent in the national tournament], is only going to help us out.”Eldredge said that next weekend’s game against UVA will help him decide how he will set the women’s lineup for the national championships.“There’s four girls that are all very strong—it’s who ends up playing best,” he said. “Maybe we do a rotation of players. Maybe we just find out who has more success against the Virginia squad and we just go with that.”Eldredge added that the game against UVA will help the team out.“It’s a huge bonus for us to have this game in this coming weekend,” he said. “It’s an informative thing for us — it allows us to strategically plan better [for the national tournament.”

Original Author: Emily Berman