The fencing team will unleash its swords for the first time this season as it travels to Philadelphia this weekend for the 26th annual Temple Open.
This tournament has traditionally served as a chance for Cornell to evaluate its squad in the preseason, and recently the competition has been stronger than ever. Last year, over 20 schools were represented, ranging from Florida to Brandeis and including many members of the Ancient Eight.
“It’s usually pretty good competition,” said senior Elise Pasoreck. “People from all over the Northeast come and compete, but we have some really good new fencers and some fencers that are returning have been working really hard.”
While the Red will be without Meghan Phair ’06 — the only Cornell fencer to ever win a gold medal at the Temple Open — the team has several veterans who have experienced success in previous years.
Leading the way for the Red is junior Erica Waichman, who won a silver medal in the epee competition in 2005. Sophomore Alex Heiss offers Cornell a threat in the sabre field, as she stormed through the group pools and advanced through the direct elimination bouts to finish in the top-8 in her field. Senior Shannon Flatley was the top finisher for the Red in foil a year ago, earning a top-16 finish in the tournament.
“We lost Meghan Phair, so we were a little concerned about how the team would fair — no pun intended,” Pasoreck said. “This was [head coach Iryna Dolgikh’s] first recruiting year and she did a really good job bringing in new pople. … We’re really excited to see how they’ll do at this first competition.”
Pasoreck said that at least five freshmen will travel to Temple, while the Red will be bolstered by her return, as well as that of classmates Ivana Zgaljic and Beth Rubin, as the trio were all abroad last fall and did not compete at Temple. Zgaljic is a two-time NCAA qualifier in sabre, which Pasoreck will compete in as well, while Rubin rejoin the foil lineup.
“It’s the first time we’re going to Temple under Iryna, so in that sense we have something in common with the freshmen, but at the same we have the experience of being at Temple,” Pasoreck said.
Dolgikh is in her second year at the helm for Cornell, and helped the squad to its first Ancient Eight victory in nearly 15 years when the Red defeated Brown, 15-12, at the inaugural Ivy League championships last February.
“She’s been really good at motivating us,” Pasoreck said. “She’s really subtle but very good.”
This day-long tournament will give Dolgikh an opportunity to evaluate how far the team has come in the off-season before the Red hosts the first ever Cornell Invitational on Nov. 19.
“It’s not extremely high-pressure and I think that’s because there’s less riding on — it’s more personal glory than team glory even though we’re representing our school,” Pasoreck said. “I think that having Temple now will give us something to improve on [and] help us see our strengths and build on them.”