February 24, 2006

Fencing Heads to Philly

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This Sunday, the Cornell fencing team will send nine fencers to the Intercollegiate Fencing Association Championships in Philadelphia, Pa., for the final team tournament of the 2006 season. Cornell will be fencing against prestigious competition, including teams No. 3 Harvard, No. 4 Columbia, the host school No. 8 Penn and No. 9 Princeton, along with regional rivals Brandeis and MIT.

The IFA tournament is unique for its preliminary round structure, with each weapon featuring three brackets – A, B or C – with a dozen competitors in each field. The best fencers will duel in the A bracket, while the others will compete in the B and C brackets. The top-9 fencers from A bracket, the top-5 from B bracket and top-2 from C bracket will advance to the final single-elimination tournaments. It is here that a winner for each of the bracket’s three weapons is determined.

Cornell will send a fencer for each of the three brackets in the foil, epee and sabre weapons. Junior captain Shannon Flatley, junior Jessica Cho and freshman Celia Smith will compete in the foil. Senior Meghan Phair, junior Claire Barbasch, and senior Lindsay Ruel are set to compete in the epee, while juniors Ivana Zgaljic, Elise Pasoreck, and freshman Jessica Leval compose the sabre squad.

“[The IFA’s] are a very special tournament, and very good preparation for the NCAAs,” said head coach Iryna Dolgikh.

Dolgikh praised the IFAs as a tournament that allows players from different skill levels to compete against players of their own ability, as every player is afforded an opportunity to win the overall weapon championship.

“Fencing-wise, anything can happen. But if we just keep our focus, we should do fine,” said Zgaljic.

With the season winding down to its second-to-last tournament, Zgaljic reflected on the team’s success to date, which includes its first Ivy League win in a decade and an 8-9 overall record.

“We’ve had a pretty good year so far,” Zgaljic said. “We beat Princeton in the sabre, and that was a really, really big deal. Even in the tournaments we lost, we were close in a lot of them. We’ve had a lot of nice bouts and nice touches.”

Zgaljic praised teammates freshman Alex Heiss and sophomore Erica Waichman, who participated in the Junior Olympics tournament last weekend, and complimented her coaches, who have instilled a disciplined work ethic in the team.

“Earlier, I was afraid of a burnout towards the end of the season,” Zgaljic said.

“This is a transition stage for us, with a new coach and a lot of new players, but the coaches have really managed the changing team dynamic and set a fair practice schedule to get a lot out of us.”

Coach Dolgikh expressed gratitude towards her players, who have accepted her demands without hesitation.

“I want to say thank you to the girls,” she said. “They have worked hard, and hard work is the recipe for success. Some have fenced for seven or eight consecutive weekends, and they all have individual lessons all week. Cornell is a very tough school, and many of our fencers have very high GPAs.”

And Dolgikh hopes that all of the hard work will translate into strong performances, saying, “I hope they will do very good.”

Archived article by Stephen Davis
Sun Contributor