FENCING | Ivies come to disappointing close

The Yale women struggled at the Ivy Round Robins at Harvard after the championship was delayed for three weeks by the blizzard that hit the Northeast last month.
The Yale women struggled at the Ivy Round Robins at Harvard after the championship was delayed for three weeks by the blizzard that hit the Northeast last month. Photo by Jennifer Cheung.

Three weeks after the Ivy League Championship was postponed by last month’s blizzard, Yale’s fencers traveled to Cambridge, Mass., to compete against their Ivy-clad rivals at Harvard’s Albert H. Gordon Track on Saturday and Sunday.

By the end of the meet, the women’s team finished in sixth place with a 0–6 record while the men finished in fifth with a record of 1–4. The first day of fencing proved to be the most difficult for the Bulldogs, as both teams were pitched against their toughest Ancient Eight competitors. The men’s team’s single victory came on Sunday against Brown, which was also searching for its first win of the tournament.

Foilist Lauren Miller ’15 said she thinks that the championship’s postponement negatively impacted the team’s focus.

“It was hard to maintain the intensity we had in practice a month ago leading up to the blizzard through all of our midterms, illnesses and injuries,” Miller said. “I think most of my teammates would agree that the most unfortunate aspect of the delay was the way it threw us off mentally. It was difficult to maintain focus when we had those tough extra three weeks.”

In its opening round against Penn, the women’s team fell 18–9, which was one of its closest differentials of the weekend. The Bulldogs continued to struggle in the matchups that followed, falling to both Harvard and Columbia by wide margins. The day ended with a 27–1 loss against a Princeton team that went on to finish with an undefeated record and take the women’s round-robin crown.

On Sunday, the Bulldog women went up against Cornell and Brown, the two schools the Elis defeated at the championship last year.

“We thought Brown and Cornell would be our closest rounds, judging by last years’ performance,” women’s captain Robyn Shaffer ’13 said. “Still, we were a bit shocked by Cornell — they definitely improved over last year, and we weren’t fencing at the level of intensity we needed straight off the bat.”

The Elis fell to the Big Red by a margin of 19–8, and the Bears by a score of 16–11.

With Brown already two wins ahead of Yale by the time they were set to fence, the Bulldogs felt that they had nothing to lose.

“The situation freed us to give 100 percent in the last round with absolutely no pressure or expectations,” Shaffer said. “We wanted to end on a high note, and although we couldn’t end on a victory, we ended with high energy and effort.”

While the final result was not what the team had hoped for, several individual fencers performed particularly well. Katherine Miller ’16 placed 10th in epee competition, while Shaffer and Alison Barton ’14 were not far behind in a tie for 15th. Lauren Miller and Madeline Oliver ’13 also placed 15th in the saber and foil competitions, respectively.

“We’ve got amazing and talented girls, but at Ivies we’re facing competitors from the national team and World Cup circuit,” Shaffer added. “Individuals can fight hard, winning points and bouts, but our team as a whole is mostly walk-ons. It becomes incredibly apparent at Ivies what a difference the level of recruiting makes.”

Katherine Miller added that the sheer size of the other Ivy teams allowed them more flexibility in managing substitutions and matchups. Moreover, some teams have as many as five coaches so that each bout can be covered. Yale’s only full-time coach, Henry Harutinian, manages both the men’s and women’s teams.

The men faced a similar opening day, suffering defeats at the hands of the same four teams. The Bulldogs lost to both Harvard and Penn by a score of 21–6 and struggled to reverse the momentum in their remaining competitions. The Bulldogs fell to Columbia 20–7 and Princeton 19–8 in the final two rounds of the day.

“I think one of the issues we had was that the schedule was extremely difficult in that we were matched up against all of the strongest teams on the first day,” captain Cornelius Saunders ’14 said. “It was very difficult to maintain our stamina.”

After a night to regroup, the Elis returned to Gordon Track revitalized and refocused, epeeist Peter Cohen ’14 said. The men went on to defeat the Bears, posting a final score of 16–11.

Notable individual performances include 12th place finishes by Hugh O’Cinneide ’15 and Nate Benzimra ’13 in saber competition. Foilist Sam Broughton ’15 and epeeists Saunders and Cohen also finished in 12th in their respective categories.

Looking ahead, the team has begun thinking about the NCAA National Championship. The men will send 10 fencers to the NCAA Northeast Regionals this weekend, while the women have nine fencers already attending and expect confirmation for a tenth.

“I think this was kind of a wake-up call for some in that the level of competition is a lot harder than we’ve seen for the majority of the year,” Cohen said. “At regionals, there’s really no room for error. Going forward, we really need to be on our game to qualify.”

Regionals will be held this weekend at St. John’s in New York, N.Y. The NCAA National Championship will take place in San Antonio, Texas, from March 21-24.

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