Led by a strong second-place individual finish from senior epeeist Meghan Phair, the up and coming Cornell fencing team placed fifth out of 12 schools in the overall women’s category at the IFA championships in Philadelphia. Cornell’s fencing squad battled through fatigue and injury in Sunday’s tournament, and improved drastically upon last year’s 10th-place overall finish.
Phair bested her fourth-place finish last year by advancing to the final round of the epee individual tournament, finishing higher than any other Cornell fencer in IFA history.
“I may be the best fencer in the history of this program,” Phair said.
Overall, Phair had the highest touch differential in the IFAs, as she disposed of her early competition with relative ease.
In the later rounds of the grueling eight-hour tournament, Phair outlasted her opponents with a series of narrow victories. She finally ran out of gas against Penn’s Holly Buechel in the final match, losing by a score of 15-8.
Phair’s second-place finish was not the only Cornell success story from Sunday, as the sabre squad finished fifth out of 12 teams, led by junior Ivana Zgaljic’s individual fourth-place showing.
Phair was quick to praise the performance of the three sabre fencers – Zgaljic, junior Elise Pasoreck and freshman Alex Heiss.
“Our sabre team is stronger than it’s ever been. Alex Heiss is an incredible fencer, and Ivana and Elise have both definitely strengthened their games from last year,” Phair said.
Zgaljic stunned her coaches and teammates with her fourth- place finish in the sabre, after earlier considering withdrawal due to a lingering hand injury.
“We were thinking of subbing her out [before the tournament], but she really stepped up and did an amazing job,” said head coach Iryna Dolgikh. “Alex Heiss finished 10th in the sabre, while Elise just missed qualifying for the final 16. Elise had eight wins yesterday, and that’s a big jump from what she did last year.”
Other notable performances came from junior Shannon Flatley in the foil and senior Lindsay Ruel in the epee. Flatley advanced from her preliminary heat to the final elimination round of 16, while Ruel missed out on the final 16 by one place.
With its strong showing in the IFAs now behind them, Dolgikh will look to turn the team’s attention toward the upcoming NCAA regionals, where Cornell will send Phair, Zgaljic, Heiss, and sophomore epeeist Erica Waichman, who missed the IFA championships due to illness. Having qualified for nationals twice before, Phair and Zgaljic have an advantage in experience over their younger teammates, but Coach Dolgikh was optimistic about the chances of all four fencers.
“Erica has lots of potential, she just needs some experience against higher level competition. I hope she will qualify [for the NCAA nationals] so that she can show her talent,” Dolgikh said.
When asked about Phair’s final outing at an NCAA regional, Coach Dolgikh offered a bold prediction:
“She will be in the finals, in my opinion.”
Archived article by Stephen Davis