By KEITH BOLLT
Cornell polo head coach David Eldredge guided his riders to mixed results this weekend but sees good signs in his team’s play.
“I am quite happy with where they are,” Eldredge said of his women’s team, continuing that the men “[Will] be just fine.”
In the Red polo action last weekend, the Cornell women (3-1) walked away with two victories on the road, winning ,13-7, against Virginia Polo Club on Friday and 20-9 against UConn Polo Club on Sunday. The Cornell men suffered a road loss, dropping a close 13-12 match to Virginia on Friday.
Coming off a loss the weekend before, the women worked on their game in preparation for the two teams who senior rider Anna Winslow called Cornell’s biggest rivals.
“We were pushed a lot harder in practice,” she said. “[We had] one of the best practices all year … Thursday.”
Eldredge pointed out that Virginia was missing its best player due to injury. As a result, Virginia used the game as an opportunity to evaluate less experienced talent on their star’s steed. Still, Eldredge believes the Red played a very good, if not flawless, game.
“We were not efficient around the goal,” he said. “We were the stronger team. … We controlled a lot of the play.”
Winslow agrees that the Red played well as a unit against Virginia.
“We got our teamwork together,” she said.
After winning in Charlottesville, the women’s team took a roundabout journey to Connecticut. Winslow said the team travelled 20 hours over the weekend and had several 6 a.m. mornings. Unsurprisingly, the women started out slowly against UConn as a result.
“You come out a little flat,” Eldredge said. “The travel takes a little out of you”.
Eldredge said the slow start could also have attributed to the matchup of horses, known as balancing the string. He admitted he knows the UConn horses from years past.
“They try to balance the string”, Eldredge said. “I felt the string was unbalanced in the first half.”
Cornell trailed after the second chukker by three goals. Eldredge discussed the flat start with his players.
“At halftime we spoke about it and we came out with much more energy,” he said.
Eldredge also said he never could have predicted that the Red would go on a 15-1 run in the last two chukkers. Cornell came away with a 20-9 victory after trailing 8-5 at the game’s halfway point.
The men’s team had only one game to contend with. Led by junior Ignacio Masias, who tallied nine goals in the contest, Cornell carried a 10-6 lead into the fourth chukker. Masias attributed the lead to strong communication.
“Ryan Saul is playing really well [this season],” Eldredge said. “Him and Ignacio are feeding off of one another”
However, a fatigued horse and a few unlucky bounces let a game Masias and Eldredge felt the Red could have won slip away.
“It’s not an excuse,” Masias said of the unlucky bounces. “It was a very close game.”
Eldredge explained that the horses are athletes just like the riders. He said that contending with a tired horse “swung the balance.”
“We let it get away from us,” he said.
Eldredge said he was impressed with how the women used a subpar game against Maryland to refocus their play.
“I was hoping it would be a wake-up call and it was,” he said.
Eldredge said the men came away from the weekend not dejected from losing a close game late, but confident in their ability to match up against a tough rival.
“The team attitude is positive,” Masias said. “We know we could have beaten them.