After a season in which it failed to record a single Ivy League victory, the fencing team has its sights set this year on overall improvement — and perhaps a little redemption. With few directions to go except upwards, head coach Al Peters hopes to establish a winning tradition in 2004-05 and build around the individual success Cornell fencers have earned in the past.
“We have a small group that works hard,” Peters said. “We’re counting on everyone to elevate their game and for the newcomers to contribute in any way they can.”
The Red returns two All-American athletes; junior epee Meghan Phair and sophomore saber Ivana Zgaljic — both of who competed at the NCAA fencing championships last spring. Phair was the first fencer from Cornell ever to reach the national semifinal, having put together a string of incredible bouts before falling in a tightly contested final-four match. Phair placed fourth in the nation in 2004, having lost to Notre Dame’s Kelly Walton by only a single point.
Zgaljic enters her sophomore campaign hot off a 17th place finish at the NCAA fencing championships. As a rookie, Zgaljic’s efforts at sabre helped Cornell earn a team ranking of 13th nationally despite sending only two competitors to the national bouts.
With Phair and Zgaljic leading the way, the Red hopes for some impressive team results this season. And with a promising batch of freshman eager to lend their talents, Peters and the squad have the potential to catch some teams by surprise — and steal some victories.
“We’re always looking to do better than the year before,” Phair said. “If we can keep a positive team attitude, it will help more and more for our success.”
The rookie additions to the squad will benefit from the presence of experienced veterans like epee Kelley Hess, the Red’s lone senior.
Peters knows that the more the new class learns from the upperclassmen — and the faster they adjust to the unique strategy of the college game — the more successful the team as a whole will be.
“The thing about fencing is that it is an expression of who and what [these athletes] are,” Peters said. “The fencing itself is individual but we compete as a team.”
Freshman epee Erica Waichman has already made headlines for the Red, having placed in the final eight at the Temple Open on Nov. 8.
Phair immediately settled into her dominant ways at the tournament, claiming the gold medal after finishing undefeated.
The team opens up Ivy play at home against Yale on Dec. 4.
“Yale is very strong,” Peters said. “Our Ivy individual competition continues to improve.”
Archived article by Kyle Sheahen
Sun Assistant Sports Editor