After closing out their regular seasons, the Cornell men and women’s polo programs stayed put in Ithaca this past weekend for the Northeastern Conference Intercollegiate Regionals. Held from March 10 to March 12, both of the Red squads played two matches each, maintaining excellent gameplay throughout.
The women closed out its season with a 7-10 record, bringing them to Northeast Regionals as the second seed. Its first match of the weekend was against Ivy League rival Harvard. The Red crushed the Crimson, coming away with a 20-1 victory.
This kind of result is something that the team has “come to expect,” according to head coach David Eldredge ’81.
“Harvard is a team that has not ever had the talent that we’ve had at Cornell and we have always been able to handle them very soundly,” Eldredge said. “They are kind of on a different sphere than we are.”
The women needed to keep the same kind of focus and intensity when it went on play UConn — despite tough gameplay, Cornell was unable to pull away with a win in the four season matches against the Huskies, and the regionals match was no different.
The Red had a slow start against the top-seeded Huskies, constantly having to play from behind. Finally, with 11 seconds left to play, freshman Shariah Harris scored the tying goal with 11 seconds left.
“It was looking like UConn was going to hang on and have the good solid win, and our women just kept at it,” Eldredge said. “[Harris] stepped up and, as a first year player, that just is a credit to her talent and what her ceiling is gonna be.”
Despite the comeback effort and after a grueling two rounds of shootouts, the Red fell to the Huskies with a final score of 13-12.
“By the time you get into these big tournaments, it’s very likely that the teams are of equal skillsets, so it’s really anybody’s game,” said junior Hannah Noyes. “We practice endlessly for these [shootouts], so when it comes to the time to actually go through with the shootout, we’re very well-prepared and it’s really just about keeping your head on your shoulders, keeping the nerves out of the way, and just trying to get the penalty-three shot.”
The women’s program finished the tournament in second place, with UConn placing first. Both Harris and senior captain Emma Eldredge earned Northeast All-Star honors for their performance.
The men’s team had a similar experience at regionals, starting off the weekend with a 19-3 win over Harvard.
“I thought winning against Harvard felt great,” said senior captain Igancio Masias. “The team played very well and that definitely helped us. We felt very well coming into the finals, which is always good.”
However, that momentum slipped up for the men in its second match when it took on Roger Williams University. Although Cornell came into the tournament as the top seed, it struggled to pull ahead in the first chukker of the match, ending it in a tie.
The following chukkers proved that it just was not the Red’s game, as it fell victim to bad bounces, missed shots and deflected strokes.
“[Roger Williams] had every bounce go their way, and we couldn’t get one,” Eldredge said. “Twice we had shots that were going on goal, and they hit off the officials’ horses. Had the umpires not been there, we might’ve won.”
The men ended the tournament in second place, just as the women did.
The road for the Cornell polo program is not over yet, with both teams given the wildcard spot in the USPA National Intercollegiate Championships. Cornell has advanced to the national title game for the past six years, and the women managed to claim their second-straight and 15th national title last year.
Both squads have a game between now and the National Championships in April, giving them ample time to tweak their strategy and finetune their gameplay.