This weekend, four of Yale’s best fencers will take the field against 140 others of the nation’s best at the National Collegiate Men’s and Women’s Fencing Championships.
All-Ivy second team foil fencers Corey Werk ’05 and Alisa Mendelsohn ’07 and All-Ivy first team epee fencers Erica Korb ’04 and James Rohrbach ’05 all earned berths to fence in the tournament at Brandeis University’s Gosman Sports Center March 25-28.
“I just want to have a good time and fence really good fencers and hopefully learn something from it,” Mendelsohn said.
Mendelsohn, Korb and Werk qualified largely based on their performances at the Northeast Regional Championships, held at Columbia March 7. Werk won seven-of-nine bouts for a second place finish in men’s foil, while Mendelsohn and Korb brought home a fifth and fourth place finish in women’s foil and women’s epee respectively.
The NCAA selection committee also bases its choices for the championships on the overall season finish.
Though Rohrbach finished 16th in men’s epee at Regionals, he earned an at-large bid for participation in the tournament through his overall season record of 23-14 overall and 8-4 Ivy.
“I found out last Friday,” Rohrbach said. “I’m personally very excited because I’ve never been before, and I didn’t think that I would be going this year.”
The NCAA championship tournament is divided into six weapons — women’s epee, sabre, and foil, and men’s epee, sabre, and foil. Twenty-four fencers qualify for each weapon, for a total of 144 fencers.
The women’s side of the tournament begins on Thursday and runs through Friday. Over two days, each competitor fences a five-touch bout round-robin style against the other 23 competitors in her weapon. The top four fencers in each weapon then fence 15-touch bouts in direct elimination to determine first, second, third and fourth place.
The men compete Friday and Saturday in the same way.
Part of the difficulty of the tournament comes from the way it is structured. Rohrbach and Werk have to travel and wait two days before competing.
“There’s going to be a couple days of layoff,” Rohrbach said. “I’m really going to need to try to stay focused over those couple days and try to get some rest.”
The women, on the other hand, have to fence only a day after traveling.
Another challenge will be the length of the tournament. Each fencer will need to complete a marathon of 14 intense bouts in one day and nine or more on the next.
“Fourteen bouts is a lot of bouts,” Rohrbach said. “The first day of 14 bouts you don’t want to lose a bunch of your last bouts because you’re tired. At the same time, you don’t want to come out of the gate in the first couple [bouts] slowly because these are the best fencers in the country.”
At last year’s NCAA fencing championships, Werk took third place in men’s epee, and Korb finished 17th. For Rohrbach and Mendelsohn, however, the experience will be a new one.