The fencing team is coming off a 2006-07 campaign in which it finished fourth in the Ivy League and saw some significant improvements along the way. Head coach Iryna Dolgikh, herself a world champion fencer, is entering her third year at the helm of a program that is expecting even further growth and development this season.
Senior epeeist Erica Waichman attributed much of last year’s success to the work of Dolgikh.
“Iryna was in her second year,” Waichman said. “She was more experienced and familiar with all of our fencing styles.”
She notes that the team did lose some of the key players to last year’s success, but that the Red added a number of talented freshmen to an already impressive unit.
“[Last year] we had a great season,” Waichman said. “We had a bunch of strong seniors, a lot of seasoned athletes on the team, and that helps a lot. … We lost a couple seniors but we gained a couple of great freshman that definitely look very promising.”
As the lone senior on the team, Waichman will be looked to for leadership and guidance. However, with many experienced fencers on the team, she will not be alone in grooming the newcomers.
Experienced competitors such as junior sabreur Alex Heiss, the 13th-place finisher at the 2007 NCAA championships and sophomore epeeist Katherine Thompson, the 11th-place finisher at the 2007 NCAA Regionals, will share the responsibility of helping the freshmen adjust to collegiate fencing.
“We definitely have the freshmen already looking up to the juniors for advice on how to succeed as an athlete at Cornell,” Waichman said. “We’re just trying to keep them calm and trying to bring out the best in them.”
With eleven freshmen on the roster, the team will be learning lessons as the season progresses.
“Gaining experience is really important,” Waichman said. “We’re definitely going to be at more competitions than we have been in the past. That’s really important especially when you have a young team — to have as many people to go to as many competitions as possible. Hopefully everybody will be getting a chance to fence competitively, and get a piece of the action.”