After four months of competition, the Yale men’s and women’s fencing teams concluded their seasons with top finishes by representatives from both teams at NCAA regionals and championships.
On March 8, both teams travelled to New York University to compete in the Northeast Regionals, where the Elis faced many of their regular-season Ivy League opponents. Ilana Kamber ’18 led the women’s sabre effort with a 10th place finish and an automatic bid to the championship event. Meanwhile, Maria Martinez ’16 finished four places behind Kamber in 14th, and just behind her was Joanna Lew ’17 in 16th place. Captain Lauren Miller ’15, who has represented Yale at the NCAA Championships for the past three years, finished eighth out of 43 competitors in the foil competition and also earned an automatic bid. Meanwhile, heading up Yale’s epee squad was Katherine Miller ’16, who finished 15th out of 58 fencers.
Lillie Lainoff ’17, who finished 24th in the sabre competition, noted that the women did an excellent job of maintaining focus despite the length of the competition.
“Regionals is always the longest tournament of the year,” Lainoff said. “If you make it to the final round, you’re probably looking at over six hours of competition. Even the most seasoned competitors are completely exhausted by the end of the day.”
The men’s team also succeeded in placing a few of its fencers toward the top of their events at NYU. Sam Broughton ’15 notched a 12th place finish in foil, just ahead of No. 13 Brian Wang ’16, who later went on to compete at the NCAA Championships. In sabre, Reed Srere ’17 finished in 14th, while captain Hugh O’Cinneide ’15 placed 16th after defeating two-time NCAA bronze medalist Roman Sydorenko from St. John’s.
Both O’Cinneide and Srere noted that the structure of the competition gives regionals an unusual kind of intensity. Many of the bids to the championships are dependent upon a fencer’s record heading into the competition and the remaining fencers must fight for the few remaining qualifying berths. For O’Cinneide and Srere, this meant battling against three of the four first-team All-Americans in men’s sabre.
“We are in the most difficult region in the NCAA, especially for sabre, and that is hard psychologically,” Srere said. “Because of the lack of tournaments in the lead up to regionals this year, with the cancellation of squad championships, I think that a lot of our team, including me, did not feel as if they were fencing at their most competitive [level].”
Two weeks later, three Bulldogs traveled to Ohio State University to take on the nation’s top fencers at the NCAA Championships. Wang represented the men’s team in foil, finishing 23rd in the competition after recording two victories on Thursday and winning one bout on Friday. This event marked the first time Wang has attended the championships, and his results picked up three points for Yale’s team ranking in the foil competition to put the Elis at 19th place in that event.
In her fourth and final NCAA Championship appearance, Miller won 12 out of 23 bouts to finish in 12th place in foil. In all four years, the captain has finished among the top 20 fencers in NCAA women’s foil. In her freshman year, Miller finished seventh in the competition and notched 13th and 17th place the past two seasons. Her teammate, Kamber, finished in 23rd in saber in her debut appearance at the championships, beating out Julia Greene of Stanford.
Miller noted that she was proud of her performance and her ability to stay focused during an event featuring the nation’s top fencers.
“This was my last time competing after 13 years of fencing, and I wanted to leave NCAAs knowing I’d fenced my absolute best,” Miller said. “By focusing on optimizing my technique and strategy, rather than on the final result, I was able to perform at a high level and win some difficult bouts … The mental component of fencing has always been the most challenging and the most exciting part of the sport for me.”