Good first touch in fencing debut

The Yale fencing team went outnumbered into the throes of battle this past weekend, and emerged, if not victorious, at least unscathed.

Friday and Saturday’s Garret Open at Penn State was this year’s first chance for the fencing team to demonstrate their skill and dexterity with the foil, epee and saber.

For the Yale team, however, the tournament came at just the wrong time.

“Our performance was marred by the fact that a lot of our people were missing,” Stephen Townley ’02 said.

The Yale team was short-handed in numerous events. Sada Jacobson ’04 — the star of women’s saber — was busy fencing in Europe. While on hiatus, she has won a junior tournament in Italy and placed 12th in an international competition in France.

Many Bulldog fencers at the tournament, including men’s captain Cameron Hill ’02, were playing with injuries. For those who did make the trek, the outcome was worth it.

In Townley’s own specialty, men’s foil, he placed ninth in a field of 40. While fairly pleased with the result, he admitted that the absence of several strong fencing schools — including NCAA champion St. John’s University — affected the outcome.

“Men’s foils was a little bit of a weaker field,” Townley said.

Head coach Henry Harutunian felt Townley’s performance was excellent, however, remarking that it was the best in Townley’s Yale career.

In men’s epee, Hill led the Yale team with a finish of 14th, followed by Mike Alexander ’05 at 17th.

In men’s saber, Thomas Collier ’05 came in at 17th and men’s saber captain Mitsohiru Sudo ’02 finished right behind at 18th.

Sudo was coming off a year-and-a-half break from fencing.

“I was a bit rusty,” he said, adding that the men’s saber squad should be stronger in the regular season with the addition of two fencers unable to make it to the weekend’s tournament.

Alexander’s epee performance was one of a group of strong freshman starts.

“Many of the younger people showed a lot of promise,” Townley said.

Hill agreed, adding that he was pleased with the team’s play.

“The tournament is supposed to be a learning experience,” Hill said. “Each person finds out what they need to work on.”

Freshman Katharine Scheemer demonstrated she was ready for regular season action. Her field, women’s saber, was an especially strong one for Yale. With one of the only full teams for Yale in the tournament, captain Zane Selkirk ’04 dominated to finish fifth with Jennifer Joseph ’04 not far behind at seventh. Despite Yale’s strength already in the field, Scheemer made it to the round of 16, finishing 15th overall.

Harutunian pointed to Selkirk’s performance as the Bulldogs’ best in the tournament. Despite being down 14-10, she came back with five touches to win 15-14.

“It was great how she could focus in and concentrate,” Harutunian said.

Women’s epee was a bit harder for Yale, with only one Bulldog — Candice Frost ’03 — competing. She placed 25th. Selkirk feels Erica Korb ’05 — who was unable to make it to the tournament — will be the strongest epee fencer for Yale in the regular season.

The Elis had another fairly strong round in women’s saber with Sophie Jones ’03 topping the Yale list at eighth, Sarah McDonough ’03 finishing at 22nd and Meredith Hughes ’05 coming in at 29th.

Despite entering undermanned teams in most field, the Yalies were pleased with their success.

“As a team we did really well,” Townley said. “We showed a lot of potential.”

Based on their performance at the tournament, the Bulldogs expect the rest of their season to go well.

“We have high hopes for the rest of the season,” Townley said. “We just have to get everyone back on their feet and ready to go.”

Harutunian preferred not to make any judgements this early.

“We still need to adjust and polish,” he said. “We’re taking it bout by bout, touch by touch.”

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