As the Ivy match-ups get closer, the young Yale men’s fencing team is running out of opportunities to gain experience.
The Elis will fence Brandeis today, the first time the Bulldogs have seen action since the winter break. This will be the last stretch of non-league contests before Yale starts Ivy League play on Jan. 31.
“This is going to be a key test for the freshman on the fencing team that will be starting,” captain James Rohrbach ’04 said. “This is an important early-season test for them.”
Out of the 12 Yale starters at this meet, four will be freshman: foil fencers Michael Aboodi ’07, sabre fencers Victor Ramos ’07 and Chris Peterson ’07, and epee fencer Johnny Beski ’07. Their growth has been a major focus of the team this season. At this point, however, Yale only has tough and important matches ahead.
“We have two meets on Saturday, four on Sunday, and then the next week the Ivy League season starts,” Rohrbach said. “Those meets come quick and they are going to be some of the toughest meets.”
Yale will face Vassar and Rutgers in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. on Saturday before rounding out their New York State road trip in the Big Apple on Sunday against six teams at the NYU Invitational.
Since the Bulldogs are coming off an intense week of practice during the winter recess, the meet will be crucial in determining the success of the team from this point onward.
“We came back early to have winter training and we really care about where the team is at this point,” Rohrbach said. “It’s the first meet that we have of the winter part of the season. With six meets over the next week, it’s important to start off on the right foot.”
Last year, Yale edged out Brandeis 14-13, though in previous years, the Elis have won by larger margins. In recent years, the Judges have not defeated the Bulldogs, but because Brandeis has improved every year, Yale head coach Henry Hartunian continues to repeat his policy of refusing to underestimate any opponent.
“Who can say what will happen?” he said.
Brandeis is similar to Yale in that it is a young team with plenty of future potential. However, the Bulldogs are confident that a win lies easily within their ability.
“Hopefully if everyone performs at their abilities we should be able to win pretty handily,” epee fencer Will Tauxe ’06 said.
Foil fencer Cory Werk ’06 and Peterson will be anchors for the team, but a victory will also depend on a successful performance from the entire epee squad.
Regardless of the result, fulfilling its own potential is still the team’s number one goal.
“A successful Brandeis meet would be one in which the team won but also everyone had a performance that was consistent with their best,” Rohrbach said.
Yale’s priorities seem more reasonable when weighed against the Elis’ 15-12 victory against NYU Dec. 2. Although the Elis took the epee event handily 8-1, such a narrow overall margin of victory meant that the foil and sabre squads performed disappointingly.
“It placed extra emphasis on fencing up to our potential at this meet,” Rohrbach said.