Following a 19-13 finish to the regular season, the Cornell women’s fencing team will head into the NCAA Northeast Regional Championships this weekend with 10 qualifying individuals.
Juniors Gabriella Zusin, Luby Kiriakidi and Julia Telischi comprise the Red’s foil qualifiers. Senior Vicki Wines and freshmen Rebekah Jones, Vera Lin, and Caroline Kleiner will represent Cornell in epee, while senior Abby Forth and juniors Megan Buteau and Regina Chen round out the roster in saber.
“Everyone’s really excited to go [to Regionals], and we’ve all been training since the Ivies two or three weeks ago,” Zusin said. “We’re all really motivated and it’s been a very positive team environment lately.”
With the Ivies serving as the last team event of the season, the upcoming tournament will represent a unique shift in emphasis from the team towards the individual, which may prove to be a steep learning curve for newer qualifiers.
“The individual format is definitely more stressful than team format,” Buteau said. “We are more split up so that makes coaching and cheering for each other more difficult.”
A large portion of these difficulties arise from the unorthodox tournament style of Regionals, a style not conducive to cheering and team support.
“It will be hard to show team support because we’ll all be in different pools, won’t be next to each other and won’t be fencing at the same time,” Zusin said. “I think we need to band together at the beginning and during the breaks to be able to show that team spirit.”
The tournament will also constitute a large uptick in bout intensity as qualifiers will exclusively fence against top-ranked Northeast fencers for, in some cases, upwards of 20 bouts in a single day.
“In team competitions, which we’ve been having the entire season, we fence three girls … [with] a short break before the next school,” Zusin said. “[Regionals] change to fencing in two to three rounds fencing six or seven girls in a row, so it’s very tiring. By the end, it’s difficult to do everything to the fullest extent.”
While the Red will bring three coaches to support the team through the difficult tournament, individuals will have limited opportunities to speak with them.
“There are more than three people competing for each weapon,” Zusin said. “It’ll be difficult for girls to get attention from the coaches, and that’ll be something important we have to adapt to also.”
The shift in tournament style will undoubtedly serve as a new experience for some of the individuals who will compete in this tournament, with six of the 10 qualifiers competing in their first Regionals.
“A lot of the people going to regionals have not been in the past,” Buteau said. “I think they can do very well but it will also be a new format and experience for them.”
Despite the changes, there is a general positive sentiment running throughout the team. Newer members expect to take the tournament as an opportunity to gain experience for the future, while veterans such as Wines — a four-time All-American hoping to end her career on a high note — will look to qualify for the NCAA National Championships.
Although Regionals bring many logistical changes, one thing that will stay constant are Cornell’s opponents.
“We’ve fenced all the girls throughout the season and I think we’re more than ready to face them again,” Zusin said.
The NCAA Northeast Regionals will be held at Yale this Sunday, March 12.