It would be an understatement to say that Yale athletics struggled through a weekend of marquee showdowns against Ivy League rivals. Just don’t mention the women’s fencing team in the same breath.
The Bulldogs (5-0, 2-0 Ivy) rallied to triumph over previously unbeaten University of Pennsylvania (5-1, 0-1) this Saturday in Payne Whitney Gymnasium, 15-12. The edging of the defending Ivy League Champions was clearly the biggest win of Yale’s season.
“This was a huge win and a great day for us,” captain Erica Korb ’05 said. “Not only have we lost to Penn for the last two years, but they were last year’s Ivy League Champions. This win gives us confidence for the upcoming weeks of competing against tough teams. It was incredibly reassuring to see the team rally at the end of the meet and pull out the win.”
Unlike Yale’s previous matches, this battle was up in the air till the end. After two rounds, the Quakers and Elis were tied with nine wins a piece. The Bulldogs would need to win at least five out of the nine bouts in the decisive final round to secure the big victory. Yale, whose previous victories have come in blowouts, did not wilt under the tight pressure. The Elis won the first few matches of the final round to give them some breathing room.
“In the last round we just gave it everything we had both on the strip and while cheering each other on,” Korb said.
On the day, the Bulldogs were led by key come-from-behind victories in individual bouts. In one of her bouts, foil Alisa Mendelsohn ’07, on the verge of a loss, fought back to notch a win before time ran out. In her final bout, Korb also came back to win the decisive 14th victory in overtime.
Sada Jacobson ’06 led the sabre squad to a 6-3 win by sweeping all three of her opponents. The sweep by the 2004 Olympic bronze medalist came off a week in which she became a two-time winner of the Marty Glickman Outstanding Jewish Scholastic Athlete of the Year Award. Erin Frey ’08 also added two victories in the sabre, including a clutch decision in a very tense and critical point in the match. The foil team used a pair of victories from both Mendelsohn and Diana Schawlowski ’08 to secure a 5-4 victory. The epee squad dropped its competition 5-4, but epee Anne Nyguen ’07 and Korb had key wins in the final round.
Considering all the factors, it was an impressive weekend for Yale. Not only were they facing the defending Ivy champions, but the Quakers also dominated the Bulldogs in their previous match, 18-9. Many of the starters were also not only battling their opponents but also the flu.
Mendelsohn said the win against Penn was particularly sweet.
“It was really important to win this one,” Mendelsohn said. “Last year it was a demoralizing defeat and it was nice to be able to prove ourselves.”
Korb also reflected on the implications of this victory for the rest of the Bulldogs’ season.
“We still have a good ways to go and the best Ivy League schools left to fence, so hopefully we’ll use this win as momentum and go into our next matches strong,” Korb said. “While this was a great meet, we’ve got to stay focused on what’s coming, especially since our next meet against Columbia will be one of the hardest of the season.”
With the gutsy performance, the undefeated Bulldogs are making noise as legitimate Ivy League contenders. But Mendelsohn warned of the dangers of looking too far ahead.
“With a series of competitions ahead of us, we can’t allow ourselves to be caught up in the overall goal of being Ivy champions,” she said. “We have to work for every point in every bout against every school — otherwise we’ll lose focus.”
Yale looks to stay undefeated when it faces Columbia and Brown in New York this weekend.