Cornell fencing showcased sheer dominance and confidence in the Cornell Invitational this past weekend, as the Red went for an overall 72-9 in its first and only home tournament of the season.
“Overall, we did very well and we didn’t make many mistakes,” said junior saber Megan Buteau. “We didn’t lose many of our matches and I think we attacked especially well and really listened to our coach during the timeouts.”
Cornell began the day with a competitive match against Wellesley. While the epee and foil squads both put on solid 6-3 performances, the Red only truly secured the 19-8 win over the Blue after the saber squad impressively went 7-2.
“We had a pretty challenging meet with Wellesley in the beginning,” said head coach Daria Schneider. “We fenced a lot of our newer fencers to give them some experience, but also gave our starters an opportunity to close out a tighter match.”
Following its first match, Cornell went on to drop only a single bout, as the Red defeated Carnegie Mellon, 26-1, and blanked Lafayette, 27-0. The saber, epee and foil squads each posted impressive overall records of 25-2, 24-3 and 23-4, respectively.
“I don’t think we underestimated our opponents at all, which helped us focus and led to such a great performance,” said freshman epee Vera Lin. “It was also helpful to be fencing at home, the format of the tournament and all the cheering that was going on.”
The weekend’s Cornell Invitational featured a notably non-traditional tournament format. In contrast to the standard college layout — in which each squad fences on their individual strips — the tournament was organized so every bout was contained on a single strip.
“Instead of the regular format, we did all 27 matches on one strip,” Schneider said. “We did it partially for the spectators, so they could see every single bout, but it also helped us match better, because the first to 14 bouts wins the match.”
In addition to benefiting the spectators, the tournament formatting carried another unanticipated consequence. Because foil, epee and saber each fenced separately, teammates were able to cheer for members of different squads, leading to an often loud and spirited environment.
“[While] I don’t think the format really made a huge difference in terms of actual result, it was great to see how it helped with the cheering and team spirit,” said junior foil Gabriella Zusin. “Ivy League championships are in two weeks … and for that we’re going to need a lot of cheering, because cheering is really what helps us get through so many competitions. Today was just some great practice in preparation for that.”
Part of what makes the Red’s performance so impressive is the fact that several key members of the team did not play due to injury, including all-American senior Victoria Wines and foil captain Zusin. With the absence of these team members, several less experienced fencers were able to see valuable playing time and gain familiarity in tournament environments.
“With the formatting and everyone looking at them, some people and especially the freshmen were a little more nervous than they normally were,” Schneider added. “[The
Cornell Invitational] really allowed them to get focused and not be distracted by their nerves.”
After this dominant performance, Cornell looks toward their next and arguably most important tournament: the Ivy League Championship.
“With the Ivy League Championship in two weeks and starting up our season again, having this competition was a great way just to get back into competition mode and get rid of some of the nerves that may have been bothering us,” Lin said.
Cornell is scheduled to play in the Ivy League Championship at the University of Pennsylvania from Saturday, Feb. 11 to Sunday, Feb. 12.