The fencing team wrapped up a banner year with the NCAA national championships at Brandies on March 25 and 26. Sophomore Meghan Phair earned All-America honors for the second time, and freshman Ivana Zgaljic made a name for herself on the national stage with a 17th place finish.
“This year has been everything a coach could ask for,” head coach Al Peters said. “There has been a clear improvement of the team over the year.”
Phair and Zgaljic added to that success this weekend. Phair competed in epee and Zgaljic in saber over the two-day competition.
Phair finished with a 15-10 record over nine rounds of competition. Heading into the finals, she was in a three-way tie for third place. A 22-touch lead in total touches broke the tie and sent Phair into the finals.
“I hadn’t been paying attention to the scores,” Phair said of the close call. “I just decided to go out and have fun and not worry where I finished.”
Phair dropped a 9-8 decision to former national champion Kerry Walton of Notre Dame, which kept her out of the gold medal match. Duke’s Anne Kercsmar then defeated Phair, 15-7, in the bout for third place. Phair’s fourth-place finish was a jump up from her sixth-place showing in 2003, and it earned her a spot on the All-America first team for the second year in a row.
“She fenced strong,very much in command,” Peters said of Phair, ” The epee field this year was stronger than last year, and last year was stronger than most.”
“I’m excited,” Phair said. “It feels good to do something almost no one can remember someone else doing.”
In 2003, Phair was the first Cornellian to earn All-America honors in fencing in 26 years. Zgaljic followed Phair’s example, qualifying for the national championships in her rookie season.
“I was a little nervous,” Zgaljic said. “It was a different experience, but I was pretty excited.”
“She came to compete as a relatively unknown,” said Peters. “She made a mark on the national scene. In many bouts, she was close to winning. It bodes very well for the future.”
Zgaljic finished 17th out of 24 competitors, fighting her way to a 8-14 record in the NCAA bouts. Over two days, she accumulated 66 touches.
“I was really happy with it,” Zgaljic said. “I think I fenced really well and stayed pretty focused. I think next year I’d like to try and make top 12 and go All-America.”
Zgaljic’s strong effort, combined with Phair’s All-America performance, propelled the Red to a 13th place finish in the team standings.
“This gives Cornell a high profile nationally,” Peters said. “Both fencers are returning next year, and they’ll be better. [Phair] has improved, and I expect that to continue over the next two years.”
Archived article by Olivia Dwyer
Sun Staff Writer