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Cornell Women’s Polo team defeats Central New York Polo Club in overtime shootout

Senior Emma Eldredge and an opponent from Central New York Polo Club face off to get the ball during the second chukker of the match. Photo by/Sophia Tulp
The Cornell Women’s polo team got back to work this weekend after two consecutive losses, as they defeated the Central New York Polo Club Feb. 10 at home, following a shootout to break a tie and usher in a win.

The win follows two back-to-back losses for the women, after two of their key players — both senior Emma Eldredge and freshman Shariah Harris — fell ill with the flu during their last two games, head coach David Eldredge said.

“We’ve had some struggles lately,” David Eldredge said. “We’ve been dealing with the different viruses that have been going around, and our captain and our second best layer were sick all weekend so that was very difficult for them.”

With their record now at 5–9, David Eldredge said the women’s team will look for a strong Spring finish to avoid its first losing season since 2006, and to as well as defend its their two consecutive national titles.

David Eldredge entered this weekend game approaching his 500th career win with the women’s team. However, the game was not an easy victory. After going back and forth first three periods, the women both secured and lost their leads to Central New York, only to find themselves tied 13–13 with 57 seconds left in the last period.

The scoreboard displays the final score of the match. Cornell defeated Central New York Polo Club in a shootout round, making the score 14–13. Photo/Sophia Tulp

Central New York managed to make a back shot — when they hit the ball with the mallet from behind, rather than straight on — to tie the game and force a shoot out.

From left: Senior Emma Eldredge, freshman Shariah Harris and junior Hannah Noyes chat during a break in the third chukker. Breaks are often held in polo for both the horses and the players. Photo/Sophia Tulp

After what David Eldredge calls a “rare occurrence,” the women won in a shootout, with junior Hannah Noyes making the game-winning goal.

“Tonight’s game was good because we were healthy and able to go out and play more of who we expected we were going to be,” David Eldredge said. “The team that we played against was a very good team, a team that was well schooled, and they weren’t going to go away and they didn’t, fought right down to the end.”

Though junior Gillian Cowley, an alternate for the team, didn’t make the winning goal during the shootout, she showed nothing but support for Noyes.

“I never done a penalty shootout but I know it’s super super stressful and it feels really good when you make the goal so I was super happy for her [Noyes].” Gillian Cowley said.

The team fell to the University of Connecticut last weekend, which is currently ranked number one in the Eastern division. However, the team faces up against them again in two weeks at home in Ithaca. David Eldredge said this game will be an indicator of how the women will perform at regionals in March.

Cowley isn’t sure how the team will do at regionals but she said she is excited to see the outcome of the game.

“Our main competitor is UConn and we’ve been playing pretty consistently against them so it’s going to be a really exciting game to see what happens,” Cowley said.

The three players take the roles of offense, defense and “pivot,” respectively.

Indoor polo is played in a 30 x 80 yard arena with three players on horseback for each team — differing from the traditional four players when played outdoors. The game consists of four “chukkers” or periods, each lasting seven and a half minutes with time for the horses to walk and be switched out between each one.

When it comes to the legacy of the women’s polo team, Cornell won its second straight and 15th national title in program history last year. The team has advanced to the national title game each of the last six seasons with titles in 2011, 2015 and 2016. With 15 national titles, 33 appearances in the national finals and 23 Eastern Regional titles, no school has participated as long or as successfully in women’s polo, according to the team’s archives.

Members of the Ithaca College equestrian team were in attendance in the medium-sized audience at Oxley Equestrian Center Friday night. The team members said they had never seen a women’s polo match before and were interested in seeing how it compared and differed with their own sport.

“Polo is so different from what we do,” Senior Emma Streiano said. “The horses here are so different from ours, they are so desensitized. Our horses, we would have fallen of at least eight times already if we put ours in there.”

Central New York Polo Club has the ball corned while Cornell University tries to fight for the ball. Photo/Sandra Aguirre

Harris, in her first season with the team, said they are looking to bring home a third championship title this year.

“We’ve had to work extremely hard to get to the point we’re we’re at now,” Harris said. “I’m happy with the direction we’re heading now though, but there are still things we need to clean up. Moving forward … we will focus on winning a championship.”

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