In Sunday’s Ivy League Championship meet — the first of two to decide the Ancient Eight title — Yale’s men’s and women’s fencing teams saw varied performances against some of their toughest competitors.
Both teams finished the day with 1-2 league records, reflecting improvement over last year when they finished 1-4 and 0-6 in the league, respectively. Coach Henry Harutunian, who has been mentoring the squad for 38 years, said that although “things were up and down,” he was proud of both teams for their performances.
The men’s team started the meet by making significant gains against powerhouse and reigning League champion Columbia, but finished 10-17. While the team’s spirits came crashing down after a narrow loss against Brown, 13-14, the men regrouped and brought home a triumphant win against favored Harvard, 15-12.
Although the Bulldogs were underdogs against Harvard, Harutunian said the team was undeterred, noting the strong showing by several individual athletes such as captain Michael Pearce ’09, who finished the day with a record of 9-0.
“They pulled themselves together, and they made me feel very good,” he said. “The team is improving and has very good potential. Everything depends on how they focus themselves.”
Against Columbia, the Bulldogs fared well in comparison to last year, when they finished 5-22. All members of the men’s foil squad earned points for Yale, as John Gurrieri ’10 won 2-1 while Shiv Kachru ’12 and Andrew Holbrook ’10 finished 1-2 each.
Pearce’s 3-0 win helped buoy the epee team for a close 4-5 loss to Columbia, while the sabre squad struggled, finishing 2-9. Against Brown, things looked hopeful. The epee squad finished 7-2, thanks to Pearce. Thomas Bell ’10 snagged a 3-0 win; Alexander Cohen ’12 lost, 1-2.
This win was rendered moot by the sabre squad’s 2-7 finish, and the results of the foil squad decided the outcome. While the Bulldogs fenced valiantly, they ended with a painful 4-5 loss thanks to the Brown squad’s unorthodox style.
The one bout loss was “extremely frustrating” for the team, Pearce said, arguing that Bulldogs deserved the win. Harutunian agreed, saying the team “never would have lost” had it not been for the surprise upset by one fencer on the Brown squad.
But the loss against Brown brought the team a new focus as they went into their match with Harvard on Sunday, Pearce and Holbrook said.
They topped Harvard, 15-12 after losing 5-22 against the Crimson, last year.
The women’s team also fared well during the day, already beating their previous season’s Ivy League record.
A 6-21 loss against the dominant Columbia team was not unexpected, but two Yale women — Jennifer Ivers ’10 for sabre and Katherine Pitt ’12 for foil — won two of their three bouts.
Against Brown, the team brought renewed strength, winning 18-9, which Harutunian said shows that they are doing “very well.” Three fencers — Valeria Makeeva ’12, Rebecca Moss ’10 and Pitt — won all three of their bouts. Moss went on to finish the day with an impressive overall record of 6-2. Foil finished the match 8-1, while epee ended up 7-2 and sabre finished 3-6.
While the sabre squad had fared less well than their peers in the previous two matches, they carried the Bulldogs against Harvard with a 5-4 victory. Overall, the Bulldogs finished 9-18 against Harvard.
Team captain Lidia Gocheva ’09 said the team did well overall thanks to even performances by each weapon.
“Right now, all the weapons are at approximately the same level, so the team is working very well together,” she said.
Looking forward at the second part of the Ivy League championships, the members of the fencing team are optimistic.
Harutunian said he will encourage all the fencers to push one another and strive to greater heights as a team. After Sunday’s performance, he is heartened as the men’s team prepares to face Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania, while the women’s squad gears up against Princeton, Penn and Cornell.
Gocheva said the women’s team looks forward to outdoing their own performance from last year, while Holbrook said the men’s team is hungry for a further taste of victory after its surprise loss against Brown and impressive win against Harvard.
The Ivy North Competition will be held Feb. 22 in Providence, R.I.