With the national championships over and the official season complete, the men’s and women’s polo teams will engage in a more relaxing competition this weekend at its annual alumni game.
The match will feature current players against graduated players, and serve as a send-off to the athletes in the senior class.
“Every year, it’s kind of a celebration,” head coach David Eldredge ’81 said. “It’s also partially a senior’s game where our seniors who are graduating go off and get to play their last time.”
The graduating seniors can also look forward to getting dunked in the horses’ water tank as part of a polo team tradition. Notable leaving seniors include captain Ali Hoffman for the women and captain Branden Van Loon for the men, but both teams can look forward to next year’s incoming talent. On the men’s side, the team is gaining an experienced polo player from Peru, while on the women’s side, Emma Eldredge will join older sister Kailey — the team’s leading goal-scorer who served as captain this season alongside the departing Hoffman — under their father’s coaching.
Reflecting on the season, David Eldredge said he was pleased with the team’s first-semester play and noted that the horse virus that swept through the barn during the spring season made second-semester play more difficult.
“It ended up that [in] the fall, we were especially happy with how both teams performed,” he said. “The spring was very challenging for both teams on the whole, because we had the interruption with the horses getting sick. …That really threw a kink in to the works as far as for us having that continuity throughout the whole entire year. It’s something that we hope for the future that doesn’t happen — it’s just a matter of us coming back next year and coming back with all the horses healthy and all the players healthy.”
At nationals, the No. 1 women’s team finished as runner-ups to No. 2 UVA after a shootout loss in the finals. The No. 3 men’s team’s season ended in the semifinals, after a loss to No. 2 Colorado State eliminated the team from the tournament. In a surprising twist, Colorado State then lost in the finals to first-time champion Westmont college, the No. 4 seed who advanced to the finals by topping the defending champion Cavaliers in the other semifinals matchup.
Despite not taking home any national titles, Eldredge said he was proud of the individual awards the team claimed at the tournament, even if the teams did not have their best performances of the season at the tournament.
“For the men’s team, it could have been a better day for us — it wasn’t a bad day, but we could have had a better day in the semifinals,” he said. “At the same time, I can be very happy. …Kailey and [freshman] Anna [Winslow] both received all-American honors for their play at nationals, [and] Nik Feldman took home the sportsmanship award, which is something that is very meaningful at nationals — it shows the spirit and kind of attitude we try to put out.”
Original Author: Emily Berman