Five Yale fencers are headed to the NCAA national championships after a day of mixed results at the March 13 NCAA northeast regional at Vassar.
Two weeks after winning the U.S. Collegiate Squad Championships, the men’s fencing team saw three of its members qualify for NCAA nationals. Still, the result fell short of the maximum of six fencers that captain Jonathan Holbrook ’12 said he thought had a strong chance of qualifying. Two members of the women’s team also made it through to the national competition, ending the team’s season on a high note after disappointing showings at the Ivy League Championships and the U.S. Collegiate Squad Championships.
“It was a beautiful effort from everyone, and we’re very happy for those who qualified,” said head coach Henry Harutunian, who praised the season-long efforts of both the men’s and women’s teams.
Among the men at the northeast regional, Shiv Kachru ’12 and Nathaniel Botwinick ’11 placed second and fifth in the foil competition, respectively. The two of them, along with Peter Cohen ’14, who placed 10th in épée, made it through to the national championships.
This will not be the first time Botwinick fences at nationals. He qualified last year, ultimately finishing in sixth place and earning a spot on the All-American team.
But Harutunian admitted the results were a “little disappointing” given the team’s strong performances throughout the season, adding that he had expected two épée, at least one sabre and two foil fencers to qualify. A maximum of two fencers per weapon per team can qualify for nationals under NCAA regulations.
“Overall, this result is not up to the full potential for the team — we can do better as a team,” Holbrook said. “Our results as a team have been better than our results as individuals.”
Last year, four male fencers, including Holbrook, qualified for the national championships. But because two other team members qualified in the foil competition along with Holbrook, he was unable to compete as part of the NCAA limit.
It was a different story for the women’s team, which did better than expected at the regional tournament. The team celebrated the performances of captain Madeline Oliver ’13 and Tasha Garcia ’11 as they qualified for the national championships in sabre (eighth) and épée (ninth), respectively.
“I cannot contain my enjoyment and happiness that Tasha made the NCAA [national championships] with all the hard work that she’s put in,” Harutunian said, adding that Garcia joined the team as a walk-on in her freshman year.
Oliver, who qualified for nationals and placed 23rd in sabre last year, said she hoped her past experience would help her achieve success at this year’s competition.
“Last year was very tough — it’s unlike any competition you’ve done before,” she said. “But with that experience under my belt, things should go well this year.”
The national championships will be difficult for both the men and women, Harutunian predicted. He said schools like Notre Dame, Penn State and St. Johns, which award scholarships to heavily recruited students, would be particularly tough to beat.
“They’re a completely different game,” he said. “But as long as my fencers do their best, I cannot ask more than that.”
The NCAA national championships will take place this weekend at Ohio State University.