On Sunday, Bulldog fencers started the season strong with their first dual meet at Brandeis University, competing against six other schools from the Northeast region and winning the majority of their matches.
The Yale men’s fencing team beat five out of the six teams it faced, with their only loss a 17–10 decision against perennial top-10 opponent St. John’s. The women turned in a 4–2 record on the day — an improvement over last year’s 3–3 mark in the same meet.
“[It was] by far the best performance at this tournament and best start to the season we’ve had in my time at Yale,” men’s captain and epee Derek Soled ’16 said.
The Eli men began the meet by beating Drew 26–1, with two perfect performances of 9–0 in epee and foil. Yale proceeded to earn a 20–7 win over Johns Hopkins and 16–11 victories over Brandeis, Boston College and MIT, falling only to St. John’s midway through the meet.
Although the loss to St. Johns was a disappointment, Soled said, the Bulldogs competed effectively, which he sees as boding well for the future. For the freshmen, this was their first dual meet competing as Elis.
“The freshmen blew away our expectations. They were great competitors,” Soled said. “There were a lot of smiles and laughs, even when people would drop a bout.”
Victories for the women’s team included tight 14–13 matches with Boston College and Brandeis, the latter of which bested Yale last year. The Bulldogs split the remainder of their contests, losing 16–11 to MIT and 20–7 to St. John’s but dropping Drew and Johns Hopkins by scores of 19–8 and 15–12, respectively.
Foil Jenny Zhao ’19 was the top performer of the day with a 16–2 individual record during her first collegiate dual meet. Zhao’s two losses came early in the day, before she proceeded to win every bout against the last three schools.
“We are extremely proud,” women’s captain and saber Joanna Lew ’17 said. “We beat four out of the six teams we fenced, which is phenomenal for us, and great for morale during the season. Our goal is always to one up ourselves from the year before. That is the most you can ever hope for — to be continuously improving.”
Both teams fought from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with a short lunch break in between. Though what Lew called “accumulation of exhaustion” could have contributed to dropped bouts later in the day, the Bulldogs displayed consistent sportsmanship and energy despite the fatigue, Lew said.
This competition acts as a foothold for how the Bulldogs will start the season, foil Paul Won ’18 said. The main goal for the season will be to perform well at Ivies, both as a team and individually.
“Each person on the team has individual goals for how they want to do, because that is relevant for whether they get to go to NCAA [Fencing] Championships representing Yale,” Lew said. “But we also have team goals that are relevant to beating a specific school.”
The start of a new season marks an important opportunity to spark a turnaround of the Yale fencing program, according to Lew.
Given that Yale’s teams are small, the transition of graduating seniors to incoming freshmen changes nearly a third of the team. As a result, each year poses new opportunities for Yale to improve upon past performances.
“Unique to Yale is, when we want something, we’re going to get it,” Soled said. “Other schools on paper might have better recruits, or they might have stronger fencers ranked nationally, but when we set our minds on something, then we have a unique ability to reach that goal and achieve it. [Sunday] is a case-in-point example.”
As for the season ahead, saber Walter Musgrave ’19 said he hopes to win Ivies and believes the team will perform well in the NCAA Championships, given a group of nationally ranked freshmen and a generally strong team.
The Bulldogs return to competition on Jan. 16, with a dual meet at Penn State.