Fencers stumble at Ivy North

The second round of the Ivy League Fencing Championships was a mirror image of the first for the Bulldogs, as the men’s squad went without wins and the women’s squad posted a 1-2 record. During the first round of the conference competition, it was the women’s squad that lost all three of its matches while the men’s squad won one of three battles.

Although both the men’s and women’s teams fell flat during league play, the season as a whole has been an important one for the Bulldogs. The women’s squad defeated Princeton en route to a 11-9 record and the men finished 10-10 in one of their most impressive seasons in recent history. The women had lost to Princeton each year since the 2001-’02 season, and the men had gone five years without posting a .500 record.

Last Sunday’s Ivy North competition at Harvard gave the Elis plenty to be hopeful about. In the match against Princeton, impressive performances from one of the best freshman classes in recent years carried the women’s squad. The Bulldogs defeated the No. 10 team in the country 18-9. Sabres Katherine Arden ’10 and Farrah Kimovec ’10 posted a combined 5-1 record against the Tigers, and Arden swept all three of her bouts. The two freshmen were coming off of memorable showings at last weekend’s Junior Olympics, where they finished 55th and 52nd, respectively. In addition to the two freshmen, Erin Frey ’08 won all three bouts to pace a sabre squad that finished 8-1 against the Tigers. Frey was rewarded for her confidence in her team; she had predicted that the sabre squad would rebound from a disappointing performance in the Ivy South competition and “kill Princeton.”

In addition to Arden and Kimovec, epeeist Rebecca Moss ’10 and foilist Lidia Gocheva ’10 also gave the Elis reason to be excited about the future of the program. Moss led all freshmen with a 14th place showing at the Junior Olympics, and carried over her strong finish to last Sunday. She swept all three bouts and was the deciding factor for an epee squad that ultimately defeated Princeton 6-3.

But for all their success against the Tigers, the Elis still fell to Cornell 18-9 and to Harvard 20-7.

“I think we were good enough to beat Cornell, but things didn’t really go our way,” Moss said. “With Princeton we really pulled it together and we did a great job cheering on our teammates.”

Columbia won the women’s championship with a perfect 6-0 record. The Lions were clearly the most dominant team at the tournament and consistently blew away opponents — their closest margin of victory came with a 15-12 defeat of Penn. As a whole, Columbia won 119 of 162 bouts for an aggregate 119-43 record. In the most recent version of the USFCA College Fencing Coaches’ Poll, the Lions retained their No. 2 national ranking, right behind national powerhouse Penn State.

On the men’s side, the Bulldogs lost a nail-biter to Princeton, 14-13, and fell 18-9 to the eventual Ivy co-champions from Harvard. The team locked in its first .500 record since the 2001-’02 season with a victory over Brown in the first half of the Ivy League Fencing Championships, but could not notch a win in the final round.

The men’s match against Princeton was almost as close as a fencing match can get. The foil squad won 5-4, but the epee and sabre squads both lost by identical scores and the team fell 14-13. If any Bulldog had won one more bout, the team would have notched a victory against the No. 8 team in the country. Foilist Andrew Holbrook ’10 did his part by sweeping all three of his bouts, but freshman sensation John Gurrieri ’10 came up short in his effort to cap his impressive rookie campaign with a match-clinching victory.

“It was my fault that we didn’t beat Princeton,” Gurrieri said. “I blew it. My bout was the last bout and we were tied 13-13. The rest of the team performed really well, better than they usually do.”

Columbia and Harvard split the Ivy League men’s title after posting identical 4-1 records. The Crimson edged out the Lions last Sunday but had dropped a close match to Princeton in the first round, which knocked them from their lofty No. 1 perch in the national rankings.

The Bulldogs will compete next weekend at the IFA Championships in Lawrenceville, N.J.

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