Following its successful outing at NCAA Regionals, the Cornell women’s fencing team will send three participants to the upcoming NCAA championships, with senior Victoria Wines and juniors Luby Kiriakidi and Gabriella Zusin headlining the tournament squad.
Wines will make her fourth consecutive appearance at the championship, becoming the third in Cornell history to do so, joining Alexandra Heiss ’09 and Angelica Gangemi ’16. Wines placed second in epee at last weekend’s NCAA Regionals and will enter the upcoming tournament as a favorite to win it all.
“I have been excited every time [to go to the] NCAA championships,” Wines said. “I’m looking forward to see what happens this year.”
Both Kiriakidi and Zusin will be making their national championship debuts following respective fifth and ninth place finishes in the foil event at Regionals. With the performances placing the two fencers in contention for spots at the championship tournament, the duo were formally confirmed as tournament participants with the release of the official list of NCAA Championship qualifiers last Tuesday.
“It was really fun to find out, then look at all the other names of the other really good fencers,” Kiriakidi said. “I’m really looking forward to going up against them all.”
Notably, Zusin entered Regionals with a pinched nerve, and will continue to deal with the injury in the upcoming tournament.
“I didn’t think I would be able to compete [in Regionals] at all, since I have a pinched nerve in my foot and have not trained in over a month,” Zusin said. “I wasn’t sure at what point the pain would prevent me from fencing … but I have only my coaches and teammates to thank for their constant moral and physical support.”
As Cornell’s trio of fencers head into the championships, there will be a heavy emphasis on building endurance. Similar to Regionals, the upcoming tournament will feature intense consecutive bouts lasting nearly the entire day. However, while Regionals took place over the span of a single day, the championships will stretch over three days.
“With the tournament, I’m mainly worried about endurance,” Kiriakidi said. “In our last couple practices, we’ve been focused on intense bouting situations, so I can have my best performance under those situations and not be tired out.”
As with Regionals, the championships will feature a format which shifts emphasis from the team to the individual. Fencers will first compete in a round-robin of five-touch bouts, with top-four finishers fencing in 15-touch semifinal bouts. The top-two finishers will then fence to determine first and second place, while the non-advancing fencers will be awarded a third place tie.
“I’m just trying to stay focused and keep the mentality of ‘one step of a time,’” Kiriakidi said. “Keeping those in mind and just trusting myself are the biggest things.”
The NCAA Championships begin on Friday, March 24 at Notre Dame and continue through Sunday, March 26.