March 13, 2007

Fencers Send Two to Nationals

Print More

These days, sophomore Alex Heiss and senior Ivana Zgaljic — members of the fencing team — are feeling pretty good about themselves. This past weekend at the NCAA Northeast Regional championships, hosted by Tufts University, both Heiss and Zgaljic put forth stellar performances to qualify for the NCAA fencing championships.

Heiss, a sabre fencer, earned her second straight appearance on college fencing’s biggest stage. Last year, she closed out a solid rookie campaign by placing 20th in saber at the championships.

Zgaljic, another sabreist who represented the Red at two of the last three NCAA championships, will be heading back to the competition after failing to qualify last year. In her last appearance, back in 2005, Zgaljic struggled, finishing 24th out of a pool of 24 fencers.

Freshmen Katherine Thompson, Tasha Hall, Dana Baines and senior Elise Pasoreck also put forth solid performances at the regional tournament. However, all four fencers fell short of qualifying for the National championships, which will be held in two weeks in Madison, N.J.

The coaching staff was overjoyed with the team’s overall performance in what was one of the most competitive Regional tournaments in recent memory.

“This year, the region is extremely strong, even stronger than last year,” said assistant coach Olena Gutor, “They did an amazing job. They really did.”

Cornell was one of five Ivy League teams to qualify fencers for the tournament, with the other schools being Columbia, Yale, Brown and Harvard. The Red will send two fencers for the second straight year, as Heiss and Maeghan Phair ’06 led the team to a 14th-place overall finish last year.

Still, no team has officially qualified any fencers yet. The results of the regional tournaments are submitted to the NCAA Fencing Committee, which, in the past, has generally accepted the results from the regional tournaments around the country. However, this year, the NCAA instituted a new scoring software system that may or may not lead to scoring errors.

The formula for Nationals qualification has the Northeast Regional tournament accounting for 60 percent of the total qualification points, with the other 40 percent coming from collegiate matches fought in the past two months. Therefore, a scoring error could have a significant impact on what fencers actually receive a National championship berth.

Head coach Iryna Dolgikh thinks the chances of that happening are slim to none.

“While the results are ‘subject to change,’ there is little chance that’ll happen,” Dolgikh said. “Ivana and Alex will be representing us at NCAAs, and the coaching staff and her teammates couldn’t be more proud.”