This past weekend, the Yale fencers realized they were not the lone stars in Texas at the NCAA Championships.
Represented by four fencers, three from the women’s team and one from the men’s team, the Bulldogs finished in the middle of the pack at the four-day NCAA Championships held at Rice University in Houston. Yale’s 28 points were good for 17th place out of the field of 33. Notre Dame edged out Ohio State 173-171 to win the team gold. The men’s and women’s scores were combined to form the team points.
Carly Guss ’06, the women’s team’s lone representative in the saber, thought the championships represented a unique experience.
“I felt that I had bouts that went a lot better than others,” Guss said. “It was an amazing opportunity to fence the nation’s top women saberists, many of [whom] we don’t fence during our season.”
Diana Schawlowski ’08 was Yale’s top finisher, placing 16th in the foil competition with 10 wins. Alisa Mendelsohn ’07 was right behind her in the foil, finishing with seven victories, good for 19th. In the saber, Guss picked up six wins to place 21st. Guss also provided a bright moment for the Bulldogs by shocking 2004 NCAA Champion Valerie Providenza of Notre Dame.
The sole participant from the men’s team, Chris Peterson ’07, won three matches for 23rd in the saber.
The four Bulldogs earned their ticket to Houston by shining at the Regionals held at Payne Whitney Gymnasium earlier in March. Guss placed an impressive third in a field of 30. Mendelsohn and Schawlowski followed suit, finishing fifth and seventh, respectively, in a field of 34. Peterson earned eighth-place honors out of 31 fencers. Despite a strong effort, the Elis could not repeat the magic of Regionals at the Championships.
While the Bulldogs’ 17th place finish was four spots lower than their 2004 finish, Yale was missing its usual suspects from the squad. Men’s captain James Rohrbach ’05 and women’s captain Erica Korb ’05 just missed the qualifying limit. Hampered by injury in the Regionals, 2004 NCAA Silver Medalist Cory Werk ’06 , also failed to get to Houston.
Guss, Peterson and Schawlowski were all first timers at the NCAA Championships. Mendelsohn, the only Bulldog with NCAA experience, finished 14th in the foil last year.
There were mixed feelings over the weekend results. Mendelsohn, who couldn’t quite repeat her impressive performance as a freshman last year, was frustrated by losing close bout after close bout. Guss said she was not only impressed with the level of play at the tournament, but also felt she could learn important lessons from the competition as well.
“It allowed me to realize things I need to improve and gave me more competition experience, which is very important in fencing,” Guss said.
For the women, this was the end of a season that saw significant strides towards making Yale a prominent player in the Ivies. Despite the unsatisfying NCAA finish, Mendelsohn said there is much to be proud and optimistic about.
“The season went pretty well actually,” Mendselohn said. “I’m happy with the team’s performance, especially against Penn. We’ve definitely matured since last year and I hope we can keep up the forward momentum despite losing some great seniors.”