Yale’s fencing teams headed to an invitational meet at New York University’s Coles Sports Center this Sunday to fence some of the best schools in the nation — including Stanford, Notre Dame, the U.S. Air Force Academy, and last year’s NCAA champion, St. John’s University.
For the most part, Yale was bested by these top teams. The men (3-5) lost to St. John’s, 19-8; Stanford, 18-9; Notre Dame, 20-7; and Air Force, 15-12. The women (6-3, 1-0 Ivy) lost to St. John’s, 19-8; Notre Dame, 15-12; and Stanford, 18-9, but they had a bit more success in a 22-5 victory over Air Force.
What was most disappointing for the women was the loss to Notre Dame, a school they had beaten the year before.
“They got a few more good people, and this year they won,” head coach Henry Harutunian said.
Overall, however, Harutunian was pleased with both the men’s and women’s performances. The Red Storm women barely edged out victories over the Bulldogs in the saber and the foil, winning both 5-4, and took the epee, 7-2. Though the St. John’s men also won the epee, 7-2, Yale hung close in the foil and the saber, losing both 6-3.
The difference in the level of fencing between Yale and its competitors, Harutunian explained, was that the other schools offered large scholarships to prospective fencers.
“Academically, there is a big difference,” Harutunian said. “You have big pressure here. We don’t send our people to Europe to compete. The other schools consistently do.”
Harutunian pointed out that there were several fencers at Yale who are able to handle the large academic load as well as compete internationally. One such fencer is Sada Jacobson ’04, who competes in the saber.
Jacobson recently gained the No. 1 ranking in the world for the under-20 women’s saber competition. In Sunday’s invitational she won 11 of her 12 bouts.
“I was hoping to win all of them, but it’s fine with me,” Jacobson said. “I fenced OK.”
Jacobson expressed dissatisfaction with the quality of the refereeing at the invitational.
“The refereeing was pretty bad,” Jacobson said. “If the referee makes two bad calls and you make two errors, you’re already down 4-0. In a five touch bout, that makes it hard to start out strong.”
Another problem for all of the fencers was maintaining focus throughout the day. Though the invitational officially began at 7:30 a.m., the fencers were out of their hotel by 6:00 a.m.
“It’s hard — to keep your concentration,” Jacobson said.
The women’s concentration was equal to the task of beating Air Force, though, a team whose new coach Harutunian lauded as doing a good job so far this year.
Despite the other losses, Harutunian remained upbeat going into this weekend’s upcoming match against the University of Pennsylvania. It will mark the first Ivy match of the season for the men and the second for the women.
“[The invitational] was just preparation for the Ivy League [meets],” Harutunian said. “It’s the best thing for us going into the Penn match.”
Columbia, a traditionally strong fencing school, was also present at the weekend’s invitational, though the Lions and Yale did not fence. The Columbia-Yale match will come in two weeks.
Though Yale lost last year, the fencers feel confident about their chances this year against the Lions.
“Columbia’s strong, but we’re also pretty strong,” Jacobson said. “This year we’re stronger than last year.”