It is not easy for any team to lose one of its top players. It is even harder to lose a future Olympian. But the women’s fencing team bounced back from such a loss this past weekend at the Max Garret Open hosted by Penn State University on Nov. 16.

Back-to-back NCAA saber champion Sada Jacobson ’04 decided to forgo competition at the collegiate level for the next two years in order to train and participate in the 2004 Olympics. The absence of such a valuable player forced the Bulldogs to look elsewhere for strength.

Stepping up at the invitational were Erica Korb ’05, who placed fourth in epee, and Sophie Jones ’03, who repeated her outcome from last year’s tournament in the eighth slot in sabre. Carly Guss ’06, a walk-on this season, finished 18th in sabre.

Head coach Henry Harutunian said he was very impressed with his players, especially Guss.

“[Guss] is the kind of Yalie that I like to see,” Harutunian said. “She is here to make a name for herself, no matter what the competition is.”

Guss never competed in fencing until she arrived at Yale. Captain Sarah Senk ’03 said the team even had to buy Guss’ uniform on the day of the tournament. In addition to Guss, Justine Aw ’06 also performed well at Penn State on Saturday, falling in the third round of the foil competition.

“Justine [Aw] has the potential and skill to become a beautiful fencer,” Harutunian said.

The depth that Aw and Guss bring to Yale’s lineup combined with the talent of the returning principals gives the Bulldogs a strong lineup this season, despite the absence of Jacobson.

Korb, who placed 14th at the NCAA tournament last season, matched last year’s performance at the invitational. After advancing to the top 16, she lost in direct eliminations to Notre Dame’s Kerry Walton, one of the top fencers in the country.

“Erica [Korb] competed very well this weekend,” Senk said. “The epee division had a number of great competitors, and for Erica [Korb] to finish at the top is really amazing.”

Last year, Korb went 30-9 overall and 11-4 in the Ivy League.

Coming off an Ivy League championship, the women’s fencing team has a lot to live up to this season. Princeton, the Bulldogs’ biggest competitor in the Ivy League, gained a strong freshmen contingent this year, creating a major obstacle in Yale’s path for a repeat title.

“We dominated the Ivies last year,” Jones said. “And we have been working very hard in the preseason to repeat our previous successes.”

The Bulldogs next host New York University on Dec. 3.