The fencing team will look to ride the momentum of its recent victories into the first round of this Sunday’s newly restructured Ivy League championships, which will be held here in Ithaca.
The team has won five matches in a row, including six of its last seven. And in last weekend’s contests, the fencers won all four matches by a combined score of 82-24. However, the Red will be facing Ivy League competition for the first time this season, matching up against Brown, Harvard and Princeton.
“It’s going to be a real competitive tournament, definitely harder than the teams we’ve been facing so far,” said freshman Alex Heiss. “My opponents will be pretty difficult, so hopefully I am going to try to concentrate and bring everything I have to the gym.”
Heiss believes the fact that this week’s championship round will be in Ithaca, combined with the team’s increasing momentum from its win streak, will be major advantages for the squad.
“We’re used to driving. Pretty much everywhere we travel it has been a four or five-hour drive,” Heiss said. “So this time they get to see what it’s like. … I think our confidence is definitely up in terms of winning, and hopefully, we’ll be able to keep our momentum.”
Another factor playing to the Red’s advantage is the new format of the tournament. Until this year, teams used to play one another in round-robin style throughout the season. The school with the best record would claim the Ivy League championship. In the new format, teams are seeded No. 1 through No. 6, and play a set of two other teams on consecutive weekends.
Although the Red is the lowest seed in the tournament, the team hopes that the inexperience with the new format that all the teams have will play to its advantage. Furthermore, the squad has the advantage of learning from its rookie coach’s championship experiences.
A former world champion fencer from Kiev, Dolgikh was an assistant coach for Penn State the past three seasons. She helped lead the Nittany Lions to back-to-back national title runner-up finishes, and a fourth-place finish last season.
“We’ve been doing a lot of conditioning and basically just fine-tuning our game,” Heiss said. “We’ve been practicing how to win close bouts and come from behind.”
Dolgikh’s invaluable experiences has helped the Red improve its record this season, and have led to the addition of talent like Heiss – one of the team’s top sabres. However, the Red also have quality veterans at epee that Dolgikh thinks can make a major impact. They include senior All-American Meghan Phair and sophomore Erica Waichman.
“This weekend we will have to be ready,” Dolgikh said. “Harvard, Princeton, and Columbia – those are three of the top programs in the country