FENCING | Men share Squad Championship

The men’s fencing team’s three weapons squads all finished in the top three, enough for a share of the U.S. Collegiate Squad Championship.
The men’s fencing team’s three weapons squads all finished in the top three, enough for a share of the U.S. Collegiate Squad Championship. Photo by James Lu.

With its sabre, épée and foil teams each achieving a top-three finish, the men’s fencing team edged out most competition this past weekend at the United States Collegiate Squad Championship and tied for first place with Penn on Sunday. The women’s team, though, did not find similar success at the competition, with each of its weapons squads finishing in sixth or seventh place.

The épée and foil teams led the charge for the men’s team, as both team placed second in their respective weapons competitions. Not far behind was the sabre team, which walked away from the championship with a third-place result.

The team amassed an aggregate of 26 points across the three disciplines, the same score as Penn. The Quakers won the sabre title and came third in the foil and épée competitions.

Head coach Henry Harutunian said the result confirmed the growing strength and momentum of the men’s team, which missed out on winning the Ivy League Championship by a single touch two weeks ago.

“They’re unbelievable guys who hold themselves to the highest level — I don’t understand how they have so much energy,” he said. “All three weapons teams, they’re combining together very well, it’s amazing.”

The men’s and women’s fencing teams will compete in the NCAA Northeast Regional Championships at Vassar on March 13.
The men’s and women’s fencing teams will compete in the NCAA Northeast Regional Championships at Vassar on March 13.

Harutunian said that the second and third place finishes indicated Yale was well within contention for further wins in future competitions.

The épée team fell to Ohio State, 45–32, in the championship match, while the foil team was outmaneuvered by Notre Dame in its final, losing 45–33.

Captain Jonathan Holbrook ’12 said that over the course of the season, his team had “gone from underdogs to champions.” The consistent and high-intensity fencing of the foil squad, of which he is a member, reflected its status as one of the strongest in the country, he added.

Épée squad member Peter Cohen ’14 said the rally scoring system of the competition, in which team members fence to an overall goal rather than individual five-touch bouts, meant the result was reflective of the team’s efforts, not merely that of any individual fencer.

Sabre squad captain Adam Fields ’12 agreed, noting his squad performed well despite coming up “just shy” of its goal of making the gold-medal playoff.

Strong results across the board bode well for the NCAA Regional Qualifiers, Holbrook said, adding that the team stands a “strong chance” of qualifying the maximum of six fencers for the first time in many years. Last year three fencers, including Holbrook, qualified.

But the women’s team will not go into the NCAA qualifiers with a similar level of momentum. Its épée and sabre squads finished sixth, while its foil squad placed seventh.

“We are in a rebuilding phase right now,” captain Madeline Oliver ’13 said. “We have a lot of freshmen, and a lot of walk-ons, and they have been working really hard which I think is great encouragement for the other members of the team.”

She explained that the sabre squad, for instance, has four walk-ons because the team did not get any sabre recruits this past year.

Still, Oliver said she anticipates the team will have a better season next year as all the members of the team acquire more experience.

“We’re working very hard to prepare them,” Harutunian said. “Many students come into college fencing with a good background — five to eight years experience — so it is very difficult if you are starting from scratch.”

He said that “four or five” recruited women’s fencers had quit the team in the past year, adding that he did not wish to speak in more detail about the issue.

Both the men’s and women’s teams will next compete at the NCAA Northeast Regional Championships on March 13.

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