Competing in a match-deciding bout would quicken the pulse of even the most experienced fencer. But Eli’s foil fencer Cory Werk ’06 did not miss a beat.
Werk won the final bout Saturday evening at the Payne Whitney Gym to lead the Yale men’s fencing team (4-8, 0-2 Ivy) past Brown 14-13. The Bulldog victory could not have been better timed. Earlier in the day, the Elis succumbed to a crushing Lions squad (7-2, 3-0) that won 20-7.
With the score tied at 13 against Brown, the Elis called upon last year’s All-American foil fencer Werk to carry them to victory. Since it was the last bout of the match, players from both teams, along with the vocal home crowd, gathered around Werk and Brown’s Jeremy Zeitlin. Werk — who had won eight of his nine previous bouts including his five bouts on Saturday — took the young Bear to school, scoring five touches compared to Zeitlin’s one. Werk’s win put the Elis over the top 14-13.
“I felt very comfortable and in shape physically and mentally,” Werk said. “I was happy I could pull through and get that last win.”
During a fencing match, each team fields three squads, one for each weapon. The three members of each squad each fence three bouts for a weapon total of nine bouts and a team total of 27. The winner is the team that wins at least 14 bouts.
Earlier Saturday, Yale fell against the three-time defending Ivy League champion Columbia. But given their relative inexperience — the Bulldogs have no seniors on their roster — the Elis were not entirely unhappy with the loss.
“Columbia is by far the best team in the Ivy League,” Yale captain James Rohrbach ’05 said. “For a rebuilding year, I felt that we fenced pretty well against them.”
Rohrbach — who went undefeated against the Lions — fenced his last bout with the eyes of room focused on him. The Yale captain’s victory in the final bout against Columbia lifted the Bulldogs’ spirits in the face of defeat, providing the Elis with a much-needed jolt of energy before they took on Brown later in the day.
“To have most of the team watching and cheering, I tried to fence with a lot of energy and enthusiasm so that the team didn’t feel like they just got crushed,” Rohrbach said. “I tried to get everybody excited.”
The Columbia match featured another strong performance by Werk, who went undefeated in three bouts against the Lions. But even his efforts could not overcome a dismal 0-9 performance by the sabre squad. Foil went 3-6 and the epee corps posted 4-5. Besides Werk and epeeist Rohrbach, foil fencer John Beski ’07 was the only other Eli to win a bout.
More encouragingly, however, Yale actually improved from last year, in which the Lions downed Yale 22-7. For now, at least, that improvement remains the focus.
“We focus on every fencer improving himself,” Yale head coach Henry Harutunian said. “We still need more experience.”
Following a brief period of rest, the Elis took on Brown. Despite Werk’s clutch win, the foil group lost 3-6 and the sabre squadron fell 4-5. It was the epees, led by an undefeated Will Tauxe ’05, which paced the Elis 7-2.
Still, the small margin of victory was somewhat disappointing in light of the Eli’s 20-7 rout of the Bears last season.
“I’m happy that we won, but we were expecting to win,” Rohrbach said. “It should not have been as close as it was.”
Though the match against Brown counted for the Elis’ NCAA record, it did not count towards the team’s official league standings because the Bears’ fencing team does not compete in the Ivies.
Yale will have a week off before facing off against Harvard and Princeton Dec. 21 at Princeton in the final Ivy League matches of the year.
“I’m looking forward to get a weekend off to get ready for HYPs,” Rohrbach said. “I’m excited about fencing Harvard and Princeton and they’re going to be really exciting matches.”
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