As of last weekend, the women’s and men’s fencing teams were moving in opposite directions. But now it seems that the two are finally traveling on the same path.
This past Saturday, both squads dismantled their Vassar counterparts at Payne Whitney Gymnasium. The women continued their dominance with a 24-3 victory, while the men were able to get out of a rut and pick up their first win of the season, 21-6.
“We were definitely expecting a win, but after our losses to NYU and Brandeis, I felt like anything could happen,” captain James Rohrbach ’05 said. “I think the team did click, and finally took care of business the way we can.”
For the first time this season, the men’s team was able to put all the pieces together and win convincingly. Yale used a pair of 8-1 victories in sabre and epee to take an insurmountable lead. Matthew Chalken ’08 led the sabre squad, winning all three of his bouts. John Beski ’07 did the same for the epee team, sweeping through his opponents. The Bulldogs stumbled somewhat in the foil, but Cory Werk ’06 and Nathan Elchert ’06 won two bouts each, securing the 5-4 edge.
Rohrbach said much of the season’s troubles have come from individuals losing bouts they should have won. By limiting the number of upsets on Saturday, the Bulldogs were able to dominate.
“In our previous meets this year there were around seven or so bouts each time that guys on the team can look back and say ‘Why did I lose to that guy?'” Rohbrach said. “Against Vassar there were only a couple of upsets like that — about as many as I think a good team has in an average meet.”
On the women’s side, the Bulldogs added another impressive performance to their string of dominant victories. Foil fencers Jessica Dobbins ’08, Diana Schawlowski ’08 and Katharine Schemmer ’05 paved the way, winning all nine of the foil bouts. Erin Frey’s ’08 three wins led the sabre squad to a 8-1 decision. Vassar mustered two victories in the epee, but Yale captain Erica Korb’s ’05 three triumphs squashed any thoughts of an upset.
With the victory in hand early, the Elis were able to sub out their top performers, allowing fencers like Shannon Murtagh ’06 — who won her sole bout — to gain valuable experience.
“We were able to substitute in the last matches against Cornell, Brandeis and Vassar because our team was doing so well,” Carly Guss ’06 said. “This allows more people on the saber squad to experience competition in a meet and fence new people.”
While impressive in their first few matches, the Bulldogs are not fooled into thinking the rest of the season will be this easy. Ivy League play looms, and the competition will be tough from here on out.
One damper on an otherwise bright weekend was Yale’s inability to fence in two other scheduled matches. Both teams were scheduled to play Rutgers Saturday but the matches were cancelled due to weather. More disappointing was that the blizzard made it impossible for either team to make the trip to the anticipated NYU Invitational held on Sunday.
Sada Jacobson ’05 said the NYU Invitational featured many of the top squads in the nation — including Ohio State, Notre Dame and Stanford — and was an event the team had circled on their calendars.
“These are the first truly strong teams on our schedule, so it was a disappointment that we were not able to make it,” Jacobson said. “From a standpoint as leader of the women’s saber squad, it would have been a good experience for the women’s team to compete against nationally- and internationally-ranked fencers and to watch them compete against each other.”
Rohrbach echoed Jacobson’s sentiments, but was also more than happy with the weekend’s results.
“It’s just disappointing that we didn’t get a chance to carry that momentum further this weekend,” Rohrbach said. “But I think this win leaves us in a much better place psychologically going into the Ivy League season.”
Both the men’s and women’s teams will open Ivy League play next Saturday at home against UPenn.