With each weapon squad competing in a separate tournament bracket, the Yale men’s and women’s fencing teams produced consistent performances at the U.S. Collegiate Squad Championships on Sunday. All six Eli teams placed at or above the seeding at which they entered the event.
Playing in brackets that each featured between seven and 10 schools, the Eli women took fifth place in both saber and epee while taking fourth in foil. The men did the reverse, with their top epee and saber squads placing fourth and foil falling to fifth. Although the Bulldogs failed to crack the top three in any weapon, Yale fencers expressed pride in a few narrow losses, most notably a 45–43 score against Penn in men’s epee and a 45–44 showing against NYU in women’s epee.
“Penn came in as a top-ranked squad, we were number five and we were ahead of them until the last two minutes — well, to the last minute really,” men’s epee Avery Vella ’18 said. “It would have been really great to beat them and to go to the finals, but we had a really strong showing from our epee squad.”
Unlike Yale’s meets earlier in the season, the event featured a scoring system that adds up points from all matches rather than simply the number of bouts won.
Women’s captain and saber fencer Joanna Lew ’17 noted that the new system — which allows bouts to continue for longer than in dual meets — requires a different strategy. The goal is not only to defeat one’s opponent in a match, she said, but to accumulate as many points as possible in a specific time frame.
“I think that the bouts the way we fenced them this weekend are a lot of fun,” Lew said. “There are chances for epic comebacks and for crazy turnarounds, and it’s definitely a lot more thrilling in that sense because they’re a lot more up in the air.”
One such moment afforded by the new scoring system came in the men’s epee matchup against top-seeded Penn, as the Bulldogs managed to hold onto a lead over the Quakers until the very last bout.
Jonathan Xu ’19 was a key to that near upset with a notable victory over Penn’s Justin Yoo in the second-to-last bout. Penn had substituted in Yoo, the team’s best fencer, because of Yale’s lead late in the match, and Vella said that Xu’s 5–3 win over Yoo gave the team “a lot of hope.”
Although Vella recorded the most touches of the epee squad on the day with 42, he ultimately credited Xu with much of the team’s success in the championships.
“[Xu] had the best performance on our squad,” Vella said. “He was just fencing incredibly smart and incredibly well.”
The Yale men were not the only Bulldogs who took advantage of the cumulative scoring system. Women’s epee Lucy Friedmann ’19 skewered NYU opponent Joanna Tabor 12–4, pulling the women’s epee squad from an eight-point deficit to a single-point lead against the third-seeded team. Though Friedmann proceeded to win the final bout 6–5 against NYU’s Hannah Bennett, losses elsewhere in the matchup gave the Bobcats the 45–44 team victory.
Friedmann served as anchor for her team, meaning that she closed out each matchup. In addition to her role in the near-victory over NYU’s A team, this position allowed her to top off a win against NYU’s B team, which secured Yale its final ranking of fifth.
“[Anchoring is] a crucial position, and I’ve actually never done it before,” Friedmann said. “Mentally it can be very tough, but I think I did pretty well with that. I made comebacks and kept my cool.”
In addition to men’s epee, the Yale women’s foil and men’s saber squads made it into the semifinal rounds of their tournaments, placing fourth after losses in consolation bouts.
The U.S. Collegiate Squad Championships marked the end of team competition for the Bulldogs, as the NCAA Regionals and the NCAA Championships will feature individual Yale fencers representing their school. Members of both teams will now take what they learned this year and look toward the future.
“I look forward to next season where we’ll have pretty much the exact same starting squad and we’ll see where we can grow and do better,” Vella said
The NCAA Regionals will take place in Poughkeepsie, New York, on March 13.