The men’s and women’s squads together managed to win only one of six total matches in Philadelphia on Saturday, as the Bulldogs effectively eliminated themselves from title contention in the first round of the 2007 Ivy League Fencing Championships.

The championships, which feature fencing squads from every Ivy League school except Cornell and Dartmouth, are conducted in a round-robin format that has each team playing each other in order to determine the conference champion. The first half of the two-part event, the Ivy League South tournament, was held at Penn over the weekend; the second, the Ivy League North tournament, will see the Elis traveling to Cambridge in two weeks. In part one of the tournament on Saturday, both the men’s and the women’s squads faced off against Brown, Columbia and Penn.

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The men’s squad easily defeated the Bears with a score of 21-6, but lost to both the Lions and the Quakers. On the women’s side, the Elis dropped all three of their matches. Against Brown, the men’s squad swept all three weapons and the foil squad posted a perfect 9-0 record. Foilist John Gurrieri ’10 continued his impressive rookie campaign and won all three of his bouts against the Bears. In the Elis’ 24-3 loss to the Lions, Gurrieri was the only member on the team to post a winning record and was responsible for two of the Bulldogs’ three victories.

“I wasn’t disappointed about losing to Columbia because they’re amazing and they recruit ridiculously,” Gurrieri said. “Losing to [them] was almost inevitable.”

Columbia has won at least a share of the Ivy League title for the past five years and was ranked No. 4 nationally in the last edition of the USFCA College Fencing Coaches’ Poll. Although it received some votes, Yale did not qualify for the top 10 nationwide going into the tournament.

The Elis’ other loss came to a Quaker squad that was ranked No. 7 in the same poll.

“The team’s performance was pretty good,” Johhny Beski ’07 said. “We beat Brown which was nice. Columbia and Penn were pretty difficult teams but all in all we performed very well.”

Although the Bulldogs fell to Penn, 22-5, they were on the wrong end of a number of tightly contested bouts.

“I was upset about Penn because I felt like I lost some close bouts,” Gurrieri said. “I felt the same way for the foil squad and for the rest of the team.”

In one of the tighter matches against the host team, the men’s epee squad turned in an impressive performance against the Quakers and barely lost with a 5-4 result. The same gang of epee fencers carried the team against Vassar in Poughkeepsie last weekend, breaking an overall 9-9 tie by winning seven of its nine bouts.

On the other side, the women’s squad went without wins in its three meets. The Elis’ losses to Columbia-Barnard and Penn were understandable as the Lions and Quakers are ranked No. 2 and No. 8, respectively, in the nation. The loss to the Bears was a little more surprising, as Brown had dropped its other two matches against Columbia and Princeton by a combined score of 41-13.

“The performance was very disappointing,” Erin Frey ’08 said. “We’ll figure out [why] before the next Ivy Round. We’ll have to fix it. The sabre squad is going to kill Princeton.”

The foil squad paced the Bulldogs against the Bears by winning eight of its nine bouts, but it was not enough to make up for the disappointing performance turned in by the rest of the team. Brown pounded the sabre and epee squads with a combined score of 15-3.

Against the Quakers, the female Elis showed flashes of potential as epeeists Rebecca Moss ’10 and Kristin Saetveit ’10 both won two of three bouts. The meet was just further evidence that the Bulldog fencing program has an infusion of young talent that seems poised to carry the team in years to come.

“I think we are really going to get better, the team is [almost] all freshmen,” Gurrieri said. “We’re definitely losing some strength but I think we’re replacing what we’re losing with some other recruits. Plus, everyone on the team who is young now will be more experienced.”

With their 1-2 showing last weekend and with perennial powerhouses Harvard and Princeton waiting, the Bulldogs have basically eliminated themselves from title contention.

“Harvard and Princeton are two of the toughest teams in the nation, so there’s no real hope of us winning those meets,” Beski said. “But hopefully we can go out and give a good showing and win a couple of bouts and do well in at least some of the areas. The epee squad at least has an opportunity to win at both of these meets, but the overall squad doesn’t.”