Both the men and women’s polo teams picked up wins this weekend, after the men defeated UConn, 26-11, in an away game and the women topped Kentucky, 26-7, at home. The men earned the team’s second victory of the season to raise its record to 2-1, while the women kept its undefeated record intact at 3-0.
The men’s squad rested captains senior Branden Van Loon and junior Nik Feldman for the first chukker. Despite aggressive offense, the Red ended the first chukker down by one. Feldman replaced sophomore Nick Steig for the second chukker and Cornell stormed back to take the lead less than two minutes in. The team finished the half leading the Huskies, 11-7.
“The first chukker was about mostly nerves,” head coach David Eldredge ’81 said. “They just missed a couple of easy plays — we were in the right place to make the right play. When we missed it [UConn] was trailing.”
The regular starting trio of Feldman, Van Loon and Steig took to the pitch for the second half but only narrowly outscored the Huskies, 5-3, in the third chukker. The Red broke the game wide-open in the fourth, however, crushing UConn, 10-1, to lift the final score to 26-11. According to Eldredge, the fourth chukker represented an improvement in the team’s scoring ability.
“It was definitely one of the better chukkers of the season because they finished off on a lot of goals,” he said. “Their scoring efficiency has been erratic this year. We controlled the entire third chukker as well, we just didn’t have the efficiency around the goal.”
Feldman led the men’s team with eight goals, while back in Ithaca, junior captain Kailey Eldredge set the pace for the women’s team with seven goals in the first half alone. Eldredge, senior captain Ali Hoffman and freshman Anna Winslow started for the Red, with fellow freshman Devin Cox subbing for Winslow in the second chukker. With a secure lead of 18-1 after the first half, junior Beth LeBow and Winslow replaced Eldredge and Hoffman for the second half.
Kentucky’s squad had only one returning starter on the field, as last year’s top Wildcat player graduated and the third starter from last year was unable to make the match-up against the Red due to school reasons. Although she acknowledged the game would have been tougher if Kentucky had its other returning starter, Hoffman felt the outcome wouldn’t have changed.
“Had their other starter been there with them, it probably would have helped them, but I do think we were the more cohesive team and the results would have been in our favor still,” she said.
The Red finished the third chukker ahead, 4-1, but lost the final chukker, 4-5. The freshman continued their strong presence, with Cox tallying six times and Winslow adding four. Three matches into the season, Hoffman says she can already see the improvement in the new players.
“They’re doing a really great job getting in there and getting in stride,” she said. “We’ve come along way since first game.”
Both the men and women face off against UConn next week at home. After playing the Huskies last week, David Eldredge said the men’s team will be able to use its memories of the recent game to prepare. As for the women’s team, he added that UConn’s young squad may have trouble adjusting to the Red’s skill and creativity.
“[UConn women will] be schooled well as far as knowing the rules and knowing what to do, but that could actually work in their detriment,” he said. “If they’re not able to bog it down, our players have the ability to take advantage of our experience and their lack of experience to open it up and make those plays.”