Eli fencers felled by league foes

The Yale men’s and women’s fencing teams saw impressive individual performances in a disappointing day for both squads at the Ivy North Competition Sunday.

The men finished the day with a 1-2 mark, defeating Brown but falling to Penn and Harvard, teams ranked Nos. 6 and 7, respectively, in the United States Fencing Coaching Association college poll. Michael Pearce ’09, an epeeist, and John Gurrieri ’10, a foilist, led the way for the Bulldogs, both posting 8-1 records.

The first part of the Ivy League Championships pitted Brown, Columbia, Harvard, Penn, Princeton, Cornell and Yale against each other in the day-long event at Payne Whitney Gymnasium. With three separate matches going on at the same time in such close proximity, the atmosphere was emotionally charged. Guttural shouts punctuated tense moments of concentration, acknowledging that one — sometimes both — of the fencers believed to have won the point.

After losing their first two matches to Penn (17-10) and Harvard (18-9), the Elis came back to tally an impressive 18-9 victory against Brown. The sabre squad, which had been a weak spot for the Bulldogs in the two previous matches, won 6-3 in what captain Steve Miller ’08 said was a gutsy performance.

“It was great to see the sabre squad rebound for us in such a strong way, especially after Bradley [Broadhead ’08], a senior, came down with an injury in the previous match. It’s painful to see a senior leader go down, but he came back and coached them through Brown.”

Broadhead, who had dislocated his knee against Harvard, returned on crutches to give his fellow sabreists important advice and strategy in their victory against Brown. Later on, after the men had finished competing, Broadhead helped the members of the women’s team during the Cornell match.

Gurrieri led the way for Yale’s foil squad, which posted a 2-1 overall record for the day, defeating Penn 6-3 and Harvard 5-4. Ironically, the squad’s lone loss came in the team’s victory against a Brown team, known for its strong foilists. Gurrieri’s impressive 8-1 record put him in first place in the overall foil standings for the day. One such victory was in overtime against Penn’s Alex Salsman, in which he won after a pointless extra frame due to having won the pre-overtime coin toss. His only loss came against Harvard’s Hao Meng, a close friend of his. That familiarity might have worked to Gurrieri’s disadvantage.

“My friendship with Hao could have messed up my mentality — I was not as intense as I needed to be,” Gurrieri said. “He simply out-fenced me.”

A unique aspect of fencing, especially at this high level of competition, is that most of the fencers have known each other for years, after having competed on national teams and circuit events. Pearce, who had a dominating performance that included a come-from-behind victory against Harvard’s Billy Stallings, had a more positive opinion about the fencers’ familiarity with each other.

“It’s great to compete with all of your friends,” Pearce said. “It’s great to put away your friendship for three minutes and know that when you come back, you’re still friends.”

The women’s team lost all four matches of the day despite a strong performance by the epee squad, led by Moss, who went 8-1 overall. The Elis lost to ranked opponents Harvard (No. 5) 18-9 and Penn (No. 8) 18-9, as well as Cornell, 16-11 and Brown, 15-12. The epeeists won against both Harvard and Brown, winning 5-4 and 7-2, with Rebecca Moss ’10 going undefeated in both matches.

Moss’s lone loss came in the first match of the day against Penn, in a bout with Kristen Hughes. With the score tied 2-2, Moss stepped off of the strip, giving a crucial point to her opponent.

“That mistake turned the bout in her favor,” said Moss. “I don’t think I was truly awake yet, so I hadn’t really gotten my bearings yet.”

Moss later faced Cornell’s Tasha Hall in a roller-coaster bout that saw many lead changes before the final score of 4-3 in overtime. Moss tied things up late in the bout, sending things to a decisive one-minute overtime, eventually winning it with a final touch. Moss went on to win the rest of her bouts during that day, leaving her in 1st place in the overall epee rankings at the end of the day.

In the team’s closest match, against Brown, Lidia Gocheva ’10, Erin Frey ’08 and Abigail Fraeman ’09 all won two bouts. Against Harvard, Gocheva recorded victories in two bouts for the foil squad, despite a 7-2 overall loss. The sabreists fell 6-3. In their matches against Penn, both the epee and sabre squads lost close 5-4 decisions, with Frey, Fraeman and Katherine Arden ’10 winning two bouts each.

Both teams travel to Princeton next weekend where they will each play Columbia and Princeton to conclude the Ivy League season.

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