FENCING | Fencers foil foes at Penn State

The Yale fencers made their first official salutes of the 2008–’09 collegiate season at the Pennsylvania State Garret Open last weekend.

The men’s and women’s teams posted solid results in the individual tournament, and according to men’s team captain Michael Pearce ’09 and manager Andrew Holbrook ’10, the competition offers a very realistic picture of where they stand among their collegiate foes.

In the foil division, Shiv Kachru ’12 led Yale’s team with a fourth place finish. Nathaniel Botwinick ’11 came in eighth place, and Holbrook came in 14th.

“Shiv kept doing better and better during the day,” Holbrook said of his freshman teammate.

In his first chance to prove himself at the collegiate level, Kachru recorded one of the best results for the Yale squad as a freshman at the Penn State competition.

“He really pushed through a hard day of fencing,” Pearce said of Kachru’s performance.

The freshmen also showed well in the women’s foil competition. Katherine Pitt ’12 placed 12th and Valeria Makeeva ’12 placed 16th. Women’s captain Lidia Gocheva ’10 placed between her teammates at 13th overall.

In her final match, Gocheva was eliminated by Beijing Olympian Doris Willette, who ultimately finished first in the Penn State tournament.

“She was a silver medal Olympian. She was better than me,” Gocheva said. “It was not a close bout, but it was a very positive experience because it showed me what I need to work on.”

Fencing epee, Rebecca Moss ’10, Abigail Fraeman ’09 and Pruittiporn Kerdchoochuin ’11 placed ninth, 26th and 37th, respectively in the women’s event. For the men, Pearce came back from a knee injury with a 19th place finish. Alexander Cohen ’12 and Thomas Bell ’10 rounded out Yale’s top three in 26th and 28th place, respectively.

Bell, Holbrook commented, has been showing a lot of improvement this year, which paid off this weekend with a strong personal showing. The team was particularly pleased, given that the top 20 epeeists and foilists at the Penn State tournament are all strong contenders for a trip to the NCAA finals at the end of the season.

In the saber division, Katherine Arden ’10 won the consolation round and placed 25th overall, and Farrah Kimovec ’10 placed 33rd. For the men, Sebastian Cano-Basquet ’09, Stephen Watty ’11 and Ola Malm ’10 rounded out the competition with 23rd, 31st and 36th place finishes, respectively.

“Maybe these are not all the places we wanted, but it is a place from which to build for the rest of season,” Pearce said of the tournament as a whole.

As an individual tournament, this weekend varied from the team’s usual format that includes direct competition between two opposing schools. Instead, there were several rounds of pools within each weapon. In each pool, individual fencers took on the five or six other competitors in the pool. After each round of pools, fencers were eliminated.

Once the field was limited to 16 competitors, there was a single-elimination bracketed tournament. Throughout play, fencers fought 15-touch bouts composed of three three-minute segments each.

On Dec. 7, the Elis will begin team competition against Brandeis in Waltham, Mass., in a tournament that, according to Pearce and Holbrook, will be a good indicator of the team’s preparedness as they enter the winter season and Ivy League competition.

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