After an extended break from competition, the women’s fencing team will be bombarded with bouts.

The Bulldogs open a week of rigorous competition beginning tonight against Brandeis in Waltham, Mass. The Bulldogs will face Vassar and Rutgers Saturday and wrap up against Columbia, Notre Dame, Ohio State, St. John’s and Stanford at the NYU Invitational Sunday.

“This will be an intense week for us, but the reason we’ve been training hard for the last couple weeks is so we can handle a week like this one,” captain Erica Korb ’05 said.

The Eli women returned early from winter break to resume practice and are currently in the best shape they have been in this season. The extra practice time also resulted in a confidence boost for many of the fencers, as they had a chance to sharpen their skills and focus on specific improvements to use against Brandeis.

The Bulldogs head into this week’s contests with a 1-1 record, including an 18-9 victory against Cornell Dec. 6 and a disappointing one-bout loss (14-13) to NYU Dec. 2.

In fencing, the winner of each match is determined by whichever team wins the majority of 27 bouts, nine bouts for each of three weapons.

“Brandeis isn’t a particularly strong team, but they have a few strong fencers,” epee fencer Katie Burghardt ’05 said. “If we maintain our focus, we should be able to pull off a win.”

This has been a rebuilding season for Yale, and each of the three weapons squads has been improving consistently. In competition this season, the foil team has shown itself to be the strongest. In the match against Cornell, foil fencers Justine Aw ’06, Alisa Mendelsohn ’07 and Isadora Botwinick ’06 each swept all three of their bouts.

“I feel confident in our team’s improvement and morale,” Mendelsohn said. “I think that the team is getting stronger both physically and tactically.”

Mendelsohn, a rookie, has shown herself to be a valuable asset to the team, having pulled off victories at NYU as well.

With only two returning members, the epee squad is depending on the experience of Korb and Burghardt as well as the improving strength of its freshmen members.

The saberists are becoming a more intimidating squad as well. Returning fencer Carly Guss ’06 is confident in the training she and her teammates have completed since early January and also in her own fencing. Earlier in the season, Guss said the saber squad needed to be more aggressive on the fencing strip. The Brandeis competition is an opportunity for the saberists to demonstrate this, one of the skills they have focused on in the past few weeks.

The saber group’s younger members have been coming through for the Bulldogs. Shannon Murtagh ’06 and Genevieve Tauxe ’07 both obtained their first collegiate wins against the Big Red.

Yale has historically beaten Brandeis, a team that has always had a core of good fencers, and the Bulldogs will have to rely on good fencing tactics to beat the women from Waltham. For Saturday’s competition against Vassar and Rutgers, Yale will focus the bulk of its efforts on the stronger Scarlet Knights team.

Sunday’s NYU Invitational will give the Bulldogs an opportunity to compete against some of the nation’s top teams.

“It will be quite a challenge, but even if we don’t come out of it with a team win it will be a really great experience, and it will sharpen up our fencing before we jump into the Ivy meets,” said Korb.

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