The Yale fencing teams suited up at the Vassar Invitational in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., on Saturday for their last series of bouts before the Ivy League Championship.
The women rebounded from a losing record at the NYU Invitational last week with a strong 3–1 performance that included wins against Drew, Queens and host Vassar. The men finished with a split of 2–1, also recording victories against Drew and Vassar. While each squad tallied only one loss, the Yale men and women both fell at the hands of Sacred Heart in a reprisal of the teams’ losses to the Pioneers earlier this season.
A week after their struggles at NYU, the women’s team left no doubt in each of its wins. The Bulldogs finished 24–3 against Drew, 23–4 against Queens and 20-7 against Vassar.
“The teams we fenced at Vassar were not as technically good as the teams at NYU,” captain Robyn Shaffer ’13 said. “We kept our fencing level high though, focusing on simple and strong actions, and not getting bogged down in messy footwork or bladework.” The only obstacle keeping the Elis from a sweep was their matchup against Sacred Heart, which resulted in a 15–12 loss for Yale. In mid-January when two teams first faced off, the Bulldogs fell in a narrow 14–13 verdict.
“There were many close bouts that could have gone either way, and I think that if we had warmed up a little smarter, we would have been better prepared to face them,” foilist Lauren Miller ’15 said. “However, most of us fenced better than we did at the last Sacred Heart meet.”
By the end of the day, each fencer contributed at least one win to the women’s overall bout score. The team utilized every athlete on its roster with substitutes throughout the tournament so that individual fencers could accumulate the number of bouts needed to qualify for NCAA regionals.
“I think that now that we are in the peak of our season — our team’s fencing has also hit its peak,” Miller added. “We finally put what we have been working on in practice in play at this competition, and it worked out well for everyone.”
The men faced the same opponents as the women with the exception of Queens College, which doesn’t have a men’s team. Its only loss came early in the day against Sacred Heart, by the same heartbreaking 14–13 verdict that echoed in the halls of Payne Whitney just a few weeks ago.
“It didn’t come down to the last bout this time,” epeeist Peter Cohen ’14 said. “They fought harder and came out on top.”
The Bulldogs bounced back and defeated Drew and Vassar by final scores of 22–5 and 17–10, respectively.
“We were all really warmed up at that point and had a good mindset,” said Cohen. “We were all fencing really hard.”
Team captain Cornelius Saunders ’14 added that one of the team’s greatest strengths at the tournament was its depth. The Elis were able to put in substitutes confidently and gave younger fencers the opportunity to compete and win.
Individual performances that contributed to the team’s success included an undefeated streak by Cohen, who competed in five bouts, and a 3–0 record posted by sabreur Nathaniel Benzimra ’13 against Sacred Heart.
As the fencing teams use their final week before the Ivy League Championship to tie loose ends and work on individual technique, they look ahead with full awareness of their capability.
“Our team is very talented,” Saunders said. “I know that we can win, but on any given day it’s about who wants it more, how much energy you can put into it. We have most of our hard competitions on the first day, so going into it we need to be ready, high on energy. If we have that, we can win.”
The fencing teams will pack their bags this weekend as they hit the road for the Ivy League Championship, which will take place at Harvard University Feb. 9 and 10.