FENCING | Fencers gain momentum for Ivy tournament

The fencing teams will next play in the Ivy League Round Robin on Feb. 12 and 13.
The fencing teams will next play in the Ivy League Round Robin on Feb. 12 and 13. Photo by Brian Chang.

Yale’s fencing program has had a strong three days. The women’s team (6–6) won both of its matches this week and the men’s squad (8–4) split two matches — losing to Sacred Heart (14–9) by one point on a day when Yale was missing two of its most experienced fencers. With the upcoming Ivy League round robin tournament, last weekend’s momentum will be especially important.

On Saturday, the men’s fencing team suffered a surprising upset against Sacred Heart but was able to rebound two days later against Vassar (19–9).

The men’s squad began their match against Sacred Heart missing two of their best players, both absent due to circumstances beyond the team’s control: Nathaniel Botwinick ’11, captain of the foil squad and a bronze medalist in the North American Cup, was in France competing in the World Championships; meanwhile, team captain Jon Holbrook ’12 was sidelined due to an illness.

These absences hurt the Bulldogs as they suffered a frustrating 14–13 defeat to the Pioneers.

“They did not fence like themselves today,” admitted coach Henry Harutunian.

But the team did not say that the absence of Botwinick and Holbrook was to blame for the Bulldogs’ performance.

“We underestimated [Sacred Heart],” explained Peter Cohen ’14. “In years past we’ve beaten them every year.”

Still, the team was able to bounce back two days later against Vassar College, handily defeating the Brewers by a score of 21–6.

“We made some mistakes [against Sacred Heart] but we learned from them,” Alex Cohen ’12 said.

Indeed, all squads showed a resounding comeback, with epee and saber winning 6–3 and foil winning 7–2. With this recent victory in mind, the team has set its sights on the upcoming Ivy League round robin tournament.

“We’re back on track to win Ivies,” Peter Cohen said. “I think we’re back to where we should be now.”

Over the past three days, the Yale women’s fencing team built up sizable momentum for the upcoming Ivy League round robin at Princeton.

On Saturday, the Bulldogs dominated the Sacred Heart Pioneers (6–18) by a score of 19–8, winning foil and saber 6–3 and winning epee 7–2. The match occurred in front of a large home crowd at the Payne Whitney Gymnasium.

In a press release, captain Maddie Oliver ’13 talked about her team’s successful match.

“I’m really proud of the way the women’s team stepped up today,” she said. “We took control and pulled out a good victory. Our freshmen fenced particularly really well today.”

Besides a strong freshman performance, several upperclassmen had outstanding performances against the Pioneers. Four fencers — Oliver, Robyn Shaffer ’13, Lidia Gocheva ’11 and Katharine Pitt ’12 — achieved perfect 3–0 records for the day. The entire epee squad also enjoyed a winning record for the day.

The match on Saturday was supposed to be a dual-meet, but Drew University had to withdraw due to weather.

Two days later, the Bulldogs faced off against Vassar College, again winning on their home turf.

The match against the Brewers was a bit more contested, but the Bulldogs were able to win 16-11, much in thanks to a dominant showing by the epee squad, which overpowered Vassar 8-1. Again, a strong home crowd helped the Elis on.

“It’s always tough going into the Yale fencing room,” Vassar coach Bruce Gillman said. “The atmosphere and some good fencing on the Yale team frustrated our epee squad, which up until the Yale match had been pretty unstoppable.”

With two impressive wins in three days, the Elis will be looking to carry the momentum into the annual Ivy League round robin tournament which begins on Feb. 12.

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