Only two weeks into their seasons, the men’s and women’s polo teams are already off to a strong start. Both teams are on winning streaks — four games for the men’s team, and two games for the women’s team.
The women started their season with the Virginia Fall Invitational, where they had a rocky start in two losses against the team the tournament is named for. It wasn’t the lack of talent on the team, according to senior Emma Eldredge, but the players unfamiliarity with each other’s games that caused problems.
“Our team this year is kind of a developing team,” Emma said. “We’re just starting to play together … We were trying to figure out our own teammates and our own selves out, and get that from it, as opposed to winning.”
The main starters for the women’s team — Emma, junior Hannah Noyes, and freshman Shariah Harris — do not have extensive experience playing with each other, and head coach Jeremy Eldredge said he noticed it had an impact on their play.
“This is the first time that these three young women have played together in games,” the coach said. “That doesn’t mean that they’re inexperienced as individual players but their teamwork was not yet at a spot where it was able to withstand teamwork that had been worked on for three years, which is where the Virginia team is.”
Once the team came back from the invitational, it returned to work with regular practices to solidify as a unit. With beginning of the season out of the way, the three starters have bounced back in games against Skidmore College and Garrison Forest, according to Eldredge.
“They’re all doing their jobs at the moment,” he explained. “Shariah is learning on the fly and doing very well. Hannah has improved her play and is still striving to do better and Emma is just that consistent rock in the middle, who’s been there, done that and is working to bring her teammates along so that they can get back to hopefully defend the title.”
The men’s team has also been successful in its matchups this season, now on a four-game winning streak. This record represents a step up from last year’s season, when the team was newer and not used to playing together.
“We had a very new team last year and we made it very far,” said senior Ignacio Masias. “Now, starting the season beating some of the best teams at the invitational in Virginia, it just feels great and it’s the best way to start the season.”
Like the women’s team, the men have faced Virginia, in addition to Southern Methodist, Texas A&M, and Skidmore. None of the matchups were close victories, as the Red scored an average of 10 points over its opponents.
“We definitely found success early in the season this year, and we’re all excited for how the rest of the season is looking,” said junior Dan Shaw.
The starting rotation this year is made of four core players: Shaw, Liam Palacios, and brothers Lorenzo and Ignacio Masias.
Both Eldredge and Ignacio Masias agreed that Shaw is one of the breakout players this season.
“I haven’t seen a player improve that much in the past two years as I’ve seen him grow on this team,” Masias said. “He’s gotten himself a starting position in the last couple of games and he’s been performing to a very high standard.”
The Red is confident in its starting players, but the team knows it needs to polish up as players begin to face more practiced teams.
“I think we’re still a relatively young team,” Masias added. “The team chemistry is there, but we need a couple more games to keep improving on the dynamics, on the chemistry, and on the communication on the field. As long as we maintain this attitude, it’ll come along.”
The women’s polo team has a game against UConn this Sunday, and the men’s team is gearing up to play Skidmore once again on Friday.