Following a clean sweep of its competition this past weekend, the women’s fencing team will travel to Philadelphia and prepare to experience its first Ivy League championships under head coach Daria Schneider.
Cornell (17-9) knotted an impressive 72-9 record during the Cornell Invitational — a tournament which granted many freshmen large minutes and afforded senior players the chance to sharpen up their skills after a long winter break. The performance also added some appreciated momentum going into Ivies.
“The Cornell Invitational really helped boost the entire team’s confidence going into Ivies,” said junior saber Megan Buteau. “Both subs and starters saw how much they had learned and now we feel better prepared. Having a home meet also showed us how much our friends, family and school support us even if they can’t come to the away meets [and we] will carry this support with us to Ivies and help us perform better.”
Despite regular season success in recent years, Cornell has tended poorly in the Ivy’s. The Red has only placed within the top four of the tournament two times within the past 32 years, the most recent time being the 2007-08 season.
“The Ivy League championship has always been one of the more difficult meets for us,” Buteau said. “There are a lot of challenging fencers on the other teams, but it is a great opportunity for us to show how much we have learned over the past year.”
This year, Cornell has refocused its efforts on preparing for the Ivy League championships. Compared to years prior, the team has increased both the intensity and amount of practices, competed with high-level teams early in the season and evaluated weaknesses from previous tournaments to drive practices.
“We have been doing a lot more mental preparation and building our teamwork this season,” junior foil Gabriella Zusin said. “I think we have done a great job at maintaining a positive, constructive environment during practices and competitions, which will definitely serve us well this weekend.”
This approach has proven to be useful for the Red. Back in November, Cornell competed in the Penn Elite Invitational and faced five of the top eight ranked schools in the country. After coming away with a disappointing 0-5 record, Cornell followed up the invitational by focusing on correcting its weaknesses.
“We were over-matched at the Penn Elite Invitational,” Schneider told The Sun earlier in the season. “[It] is arguably one of the nation’s toughest college fencing competitions, and Cornell historically has not had this event on our schedule. I replaced a weaker meet with the Penn Elite to gauge our skills and competition preparedness against the type of high level teams we need to beat for Ivy League and NCAA championships.”
The Red would subsequently prevail in a rematch in January against one of the teams from the invitational: Temple — a program that is ranked eighth nationally and defeated the Red 23 consecutive times before the rematch.
“Even though we lost the first time, we [discussed] where we could improve for the next time we faced [Temple],” said freshman epee Vera Lin. “At practice, we analyzed videos we took of us fencing Temple and discussed specific strategies about how we should fence them in the future. This definitely helped us maintain focus and beat them later on in the season.”
While the season thus far has not provided the Red any opportunity to face any of the other teams from the Penn Invitational, the Ivies will provide Cornell the chance to avenge Penn and Columbia — Schneider’s previous employer.
“Our win against Temple has definitely built more confidence among the team, especially for Ivies,” Lin said. “We’ve been training very hard and there has been a noticeable improvement in our results as compared to previous seasons. I think we’re a much stronger and open-minded team, which will hopefully be reflected in our results at Ivies.”
Cornell is scheduled to play in the Ivy League Championship at Penn from Saturday, Feb. 11 to Sunday, Feb. 12.