After winning Northeast Regional titles in Ithaca, both the Cornell men’s and women’s polo teams are making their final preparations before a trip to nationals this week in Connecticut. The event, hosted by the University of Connecticut in Storrs, begins April 5 and culminates with the championship games on Saturday.
The women – last year’s national champs – open up their title defense on Wednesday in the semifinals as the No. 1 seed against California Polytechnic University at 10 a.m. Although Cal Poly has a strong squad, according to head coach David Eldredge ’81, the Red is happy that its top-seed means avoiding a semifinal matchup against either the University of Virginia or Texas A&M.
Eldredge did not dismiss Cal Poly but said he was more worried about UVA, whom Cornell defeated in last year’s finals, along with Texas A&M.
“Virginia has the same squad back again that they had last year whom we were able to beat by a goal in the national finals, so I know they’re going to be a very tough team,” he said. “Texas A&M is a young team this year that has just hit the map but is also really strong.”
One of only two Red losses this season came against Texas A&M back in November.
Cornell has been led all year by dominant senior starters Anna Winslow and Elena Wicker along with junior starter Emma Eldredge.
Winslow said she feels confident about nationals but knows the competition is particularly tough this year.
“I am definitely confident that we have the talent and ability to win nationals again this year, but we will for sure have some tough competition,” Winslow said.
If Cornell beats Cal Poly on Wednesday, the women will face the UVA-Texas A&M winner in the championship match on Saturday at noon.
The Cornell men, on the other hand, are not defending champions, but they still feel confident going into their semifinal matchup on Thursday at 6 p.m., according to Eldredge.
On the men’s side, six teams make Nationals instead of four like the women’s tournament, and the top two receive first round byes. Cornell and Texas A&M finished first and second, so they avoid having to play on Tuesday morning.
The Red narrowly defeated Western Ontario in a nail-biting shootout to win regionals. The men will face the winner of Westmont College vs UVA. In a similar situation to the women, one of Cornell’s two losses this year came at the hands of UVA.
Eldredge, who also coaches the men, has watched his team compete week after week and said he is confident about the men’s chances in Connecticut.
“I feel good about the guys because of their composure and resiliency,” Eldredge said. “I can’t count them out of a game, and no matter who it seems to be, they rise to the occasion so I feel very good about the men too.”
Leading the way for the men all year has been junior Ignacio Masias and sophomores Ryan Saul and Dan Shaw. They will all need to step up twice more for Cornell to come out on top this weekend. If the Red defeats the Westmont-UVA winner on Thursday, Cornell will play either Texas A&M, the University of Miami or Western Ontario in Saturday’s 3 p.m. championship.