Both the men’s and women’s fencing teams pierced Princeton’s dynasty at H-Y-Ps in Cambridge this Saturday. The Bulldogs made each touch look easy as they broke past the Tigers and underachieving Harvard squads on their way to twin titles.
For the women’s team, the wins over Harvard and Princeton were more than just sweet triumphs over longtime rivals — they also secured this year’s Ivy League championship for Yale.
The Bulldog women first dispensed with the Crimson, 15-12. Then, unfazed by Tiger lore, Yale beat Princeton, the defending Ivy champion, 17-10.
Sada Jacobson ’04, who fences with the saber, went an undefeated 6-0 against Harvard and Princeton’s flashiest fencers.
“Typically the saber is the fastest and most aggressive weapon, so the fencers employ a lot of strategy very quickly,” Jacobson said.
And although she is already the No. 1 under-20 women’s saber fencer in the world, Jacobson expressed thoughtful delight when she reflected on her team’s new achievement.
“I thought Columbia was going to be our biggest competitor of the year. So after we beat them 21-6, I knew if we just kept our concentration on, we could beat Princeton too, and get this done,” she said.
She added that what makes Yale’s women’s team unique among its rivals is the high level of participation in competitive fencing outside of Yale that each woman has behind her weapon.
“We’re a very well-rounded team, with lots of experience,” she said.
Team captain Zane Selkirk ’04 said the H-Y-P win and the Ivy crown were extremely relieving points to reach after a season of unusual intensity for the Bulldogs.
Last year, Selkirk saw her team fall just short of the Ivy championship, so the team began to work “so incredibly hard for the title this year,” she said.
And it shows. This Saturday, Selkirk went 5-1 against Harvard and Princeton. The loss, in her final duel against the Tigers, was her first in the Ivy League all season.
“Both teams fought hard, and the best of the two won,” Princeton coach Michel Sebastiani said after the women’s competition. “I salute the courage of novices who [tried] to defend our cherished Ivy title.”
Yale’s men fared as strongly, trumping Harvard, 20-7, then overcoming Sebastiani’s famously competitive Princeton squad by a margin of 16-11.
The victory placed them second in the Ivy League’s final standings, behind only Columbia.
James Rohrbach ’05 defeated Princeton’s Soren Thompson, the No. 1 ranked epee fencer in the country, by a tight score of 5-4. The epee is the heaviest weapon in fencing, so competitions where it is used most closely replicate old-fashioned sword fighting. But in this duel, it was the closely matched talent of the two athletes that kept spectators riveted.
“It was a nail-biter,” fellow epee fencer William Tauxe ’05 said of the Rohrbach-Thompson showdown.
Tauxe ended the day 4-2 against Yale’s foremost Ivy rivals.
“I don’t think James gets scared, ever,” men’s captain Cameron Hill ’02 added. Hill also went 4-2 in the epee event.
Teams may send up to two competitors for each of the three weapons — epee, foil and saber — to the upcoming NCAA championship.
“I think we’re capable of sending a whole team to Nationals this year,” Hill said.