Three weeks before the biggest match of her season, senior Angelica Gangemi felt a searing pain in her shin. With the Ivy League Championship fast approaching, Gangemi knew she had to either be healthy or play through the pain.
“I asked [my trainer] what we can do to make sure that I can compete,” Gangemi said. “Basically I’ve been in a boot whenever I’m not fencing, just doing rehab to try to strengthen it.”
Despite the preventative measures, Gangemi was still experiencing some pain as the tournament began. Not only was she battling the top fencers from some of the best fencing teams in the country, she was also battling shin splints.
“I tried not to think about it,” Gangemi said. “My gameplan was to be focused completely on the opponent in front of me and even if I got down to just now worry about it and just always stay in the bout and strive to get the next touch. That was my approach, I didn’t think about being injured. To me, I wasn’t injured, I was just a normal competitor doing my thing.”
And it worked. Gangemi finished in fourth in foil, the highest finish among all Cornell fencers.
She joined junior Victoria Wines and sophomore Gabriella Zusin on the All-Ivy second team, marking the first time in program history that multiple fencers earned All-Ivy honors.
Zusin placed fifth in foil, right behind Gangemi. Wines’ fifth place finish in epee was enough to give her a third All-Ivy nod. She became only the second player in Cornell fencing history to earn the distinction three times.
As a team, the Red took fifth place, defeating Yale and Brown while losing to Penn, Princeton, Columbia and Harvard, the latter three of which all tied for first place in the tournament.
Head coach Iryna Dolgikh said defeating the Bulldogs and the Bears was “no walk in the park.”
“We did challenge Penn in a major way, but were not as fortunate in the end,” Dolgikh said. “I would like to note that against each opposing school, our entire team came out fighting in all of our bouts; we took some amazing victories against Columbia and Princeton, which in turn earned some major points for Big Red Fencers toward the NCAA Fencing Championships ahead.”
With just one scheduled invitational left before Regionals and Nationals, Gangemi stressed the Red’s cohesion as a major reason for the team’s success. While fencers compete individually, she noted that teamwork is still of the utmost importance to any squad’s success.
“If I’m not training with teammates who are pushing me to do better then I’m not going to do better. We’re all just going to be in this stagnant pool,” Gangemi said. “We push each other to work harder in practice and that’s how we get better as a team.”
As the captain of the squad, Gangemi said one of her responsibilities is to foster a collaborative atmosphere surrounding the team.
“For me, leading has just really been about bringing the team together as whole,” she said. “Our goal was to do really well at Ivies and we got united under this common goal and that helped with the training.”
With one more invitational remaining, Gangemi admitted the team’s focus was mainly placed on the Ivy League Championship. Ivies held more than its normal level of significance; the round robin was the first invitational held at Cornell in nine years.
“It was so surreal,” Gangemi said of competing at a home tournament for the first time in her Cornell career. “I definitely channeled the energy of the crowd and all the supporters to motivate me to do well.”
Up next for Gangemi and Cornell is the Philadelphia Invitational which was originally scheduled for earlier in the semester but was postponed due to snow. Regionals and then Nationals occur in March.