Collegiate fencing is different from individual national fencing in that each match is team-oriented as opposed to individual-oriented. Cornell head coach Iryna Dolgikh emphasized how she has been trying to ingrain this idea into her fencers during the preseason.
“Fencing wise, so far, we [have] had a chance to witness everyone’s abilities, find potential for the future, and hope to achieve some interesting results,” Dolgikh said. “Girls have been working a lot to improve [a] ‘team player’ mentality for the upcoming season and, of course, [have worked] hard in preseason [training] as well.”
The Red kick-started the season two weekends ago at the Temple Open in Philadelphia, bringing home three medals. The team will turn its attention to the Vassar Invitational this weekend in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., where it will face a number of tough opponents. However, the team feels very prepared following success at Temple and a long fall season of both mental and physical training.
Team captain and senior foil Angelica Gangemi, who finished twelfth in foil at the Temple Invitational, sid the team has been using its newest members to its advantage and building camaraderie in the fall season.
“We have a lot of new talent [and we have been] getting used to new styles and collaborating with each other to make sure that everyone gets to share their own experiences to benefit the whole,” she said.
The team-over-individual mentality is essential in collegiate fencing, where each individual’s performance contributes to an overall team score. Each fencing match at a tournament consists of nine bouts per weapon (foil, epee, and saber), which makes for 27 bouts total per match. In this way, the first team to win fourteen bouts wins the match. The program sends five fencers per weapon to each tournament, with three of these five actually competing in each match. This weekend, for example, the Red will have eight different matches against eight different schools.
Dolgikh emphasized that the team’s goal this weekend is simply to perform as well as possible in order to maintain the season’s positive momentum following the Temple Invitational.
“We will stay focused and use our energy wisely for the entire day of fencing and strive to do well as a team to bring team victories and individually to earn NCAA points,” Dolgikh said.
Northwestern will probably be the Red’s toughest opponent this weekend.
Dolgikh also mentioned two concrete season goals she has for the team: to make a presence at the NCAA Championships and to perform well at the Ivy Championships, which Cornell is hosting this year.
“One of the main concrete goals, which we work hard for in various ways to achieve each year, is to qualify as many fencers as possible to the NCAA Regionals and Championships,” Dolgikh said. “This year is also special in the way that we are hosting the Ivy League Championships 2016, and since most of our team is returning – joined by the new talent — we hold high hopes.”
The Red has not won an Ivy League fencing title since formal Ivy League play in women’s fencing began in the 1981-82 season, and this season — with the championship on home turf — seems like the perfect year to end this drought.
However, success this season will not be easy. The Ivy League is one of the best — if not the best — fencing leagues in the country. Columbia won the NCAA team championship last season and will be one of the many strong teams the Red will have to knock off if it hopes to win the Ivy League.
In terms of NCAA goals, junior epee Victoria Wines — who qualified for the NCAA Championships in both her freshman and sophomore seasons, emphasized the team’s goal of sending as many fencers to the NCAA championship this year.
“We’re hoping to qualify four or five girls to the championships this year,” Wines said.
However, it is hard to make specific goals this early in the season. Freshman saber Zoee D’Costa, who earned a bronze medal in her first collegiate fencing tournament at the Temple Invitational, emphasized how more specific season goals will develop as the season progresses.
Right now D’Costa said the team’s goal is “to win as much as we can and to improve as much as we can.”
“At this point,” D’Costa continued, “that’s really all we can look forward to, and hopefully as the season progresses we’ll have clearer goals toward the Ivies which we’re hosting and toward the end of a great season.”