With the Ivy League Tournament postponed due to inclement weather, the men’s fencing team will have a few more weeks of practice to prepare for a demanding two days in Cambridge, Mass. The News sat down with epeeist Benjamin Mappin-Kasirer ’14 to discuss his career at Yale and the team’s progress leading up to the tournament.
Q: You’ve been fencing at Yale for almost three years now. What’s it like being a Bulldog?
A: Obviously it’s a great honor and it’s a really exciting thing. We’re one of the teams with the longest-standing tradition and that’s something that you can feel when you walk into the fencing room. There are photos of the captains from the past 80 years on the wall. In a practical sense, its really different — I think, for everyone — from what we came from. A lot of people come from high school fencing and from the North American circuit or the World Cup circuit. It’s a different rhythm here and sort of a different mentality, but it’s been great.
Q: How has the team changed since you joined your freshman year?
A: Basically, last year half of our team graduated — we had about eight seniors. So, the dynamics sort of flipped. We’re now half freshmen, which has forced a lot of us to mature and to take on roles that might usually be given to seniors. I think that it’s really amazing how similar we’ve been from year to year. In great part, that’s due to our coach, Henry Harutunian, who has been here for over 40 years.
Q: Overall, the team has put out a strong performance this season. What do you think has contributed to your wins and how will it carry over to Ivies?
A: We’re building off each other this year, which is something we did in the past, but I’ve been noticing it more this year. We’ve been fencing as a team, not just as nine starters or nine fencers. I think that has a lot to do with Cornelius [Saunders’ ’14] work as captain and Peter [Cohen’s ’14] work as manager. Any success we had this season can be traced back to that, and I hope that it is something that will help us at Ivies.
Q: The team has been working toward Ivies since the beginning of the season. How does the tournament being postponed affect you and your teammates?
A: Well, it’s definitely an added challenge. I think that we’ve been working up to this since September, so its sort of destabilizing. On the other hand, I think we all decided to embrace it as something that’s going to let us rest a bit after being away or fencing every weekend since the beginning of school and even before that. So, hopefully, it will allow us to rest, give us different perspectives and polish up some last-minute details for the tournament.
Q: When it’s finally time for the team to head up to Cambridge, you’ll be fencing for two consecutive days. What’s the trick to keeping your stamina up for such a long competition?
A: I think that a lot of the challenge for us this year is going to be the schedule. In the past, we might have had half the schools on one day and half the schools on the other day, while working up to the harder ones. This year, we start with a lot of the harder ones — Penn, Harvard and Princeton — and on our second day we only have Brown. What I’m hoping is that we’ll be able to start strong and be able to maintain the momentum that we build from the first bout for the rest of the day.
Q: When facing multiple schools on the same day, do you prepare for each of them individually? Or do you commit to a certain technique and adapt on the strip?
A: We definitely prepare for each school individually. We meet as a team before and after each bout to exchange ideas and see what we need to work on and what we can learn for each school. It’s also a different dynamic in that, as with any sport, there are some strategies that we have to adopt to be able to last all day, but also to use our time and energy in a constructive way. That’s something we’ve been able to do this season — our longest days have been our best. I’m thinking about NYU and Brandeis mostly. Hopefully, that’ll be something we can recreate for Ivies.
Q: Once Ivies are over, how will the team prepare for the NCAA Tournament?
A: We train as squads, which is the first step. We’re going to be at it for at least a month or so. It’s a change in pace, but it’s also good to mix things up a bit.