Julia Henry

Coming off strong individual performances at the Garret Penn State Open on Nov. 20, the men’s and women’s fencing teams will look to finish off the semester with a good showing at the Brandeis Invitational this Sunday.

The invitational, the last for both the men’s and women’s teams this calendar year, will pit the Bulldogs against five other schools: Boston College, Brandeis, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, No. 4/5 St. John’s and the University of North Carolina. This will mark the Elis’ only outing in December.

“Our strongest competition will be St John’s, but even against them, we could have some good individual performances,” captain and epeeist Katherine Miller ’17 said. “The other schools are all challenging as well, and they’re all teams who we’ve had very close matches with in the past, but I think we’re in good shape to pull out some wins.”

The field presents a good early-season challenge for Yale, especially St. John’s, which placed fourth at the national championships last season. In addition, Boston College and UNC received votes in men’s and women’s coaches’ top-10 polls at the end of the previous season, while Brandeis also received votes for the women’s poll.

UNC is the only team in the field the Bulldogs have faced this year, as both teams competed at the Penn Elite Invitational. The men’s team came out victorious in that face-off, 20–7, through a combined effort by all three squads. On the women’s end, the Elis were narrowly edged out 15–12 in their last meeting.

In that same invitational at Penn, the women’s team upset No. 7 Northwestern, 16–11, proving that the Bulldogs can handle their own against top-ranked opponents. They concluded the meet 3–3, and the men finished 2–3.

“We’re hoping to capitalize on our momentum from our last team meet, and I think we have pretty good odds to have a successful day,” Miller said. “We actually had lost to UNC at our first meet this year, but I think we’re all itching for a rematch, so that should be a good one.”

Both the men’s and women’s teams last competed in the Garret  Open, a meet in which the fencers compete as individuals rather than as a team. In that outing, several men and women fencers performed well, placing high on the standings.

For the men, saber Walter Musgrave ’19 took the team’s top spot, placing fifth in his weapon category. Five Bulldogs in total finished in the top 20 for their weapons, including captain and saber Reed Srere ’17 and epeeists Jonathan Xu ’19, Avery Vella ’18 and Malcolm Miller ’20.

“I think the team’s greatest strength is our ability to successfully compete against high-level opponents and not let their pedigree frighten us,” Srere said. “We’ve fenced some of the best people in the NCAA at our last two tournaments and we as individuals have held our own.”

The women also had several high finishers at the open, especially from the freshmen. Epeeists Michelle Li ’20 and Michelle Nam ’20 placed 10th and 14th, respectively. Foilist Anna Zhou ’20 finished 12th, while teammate Sam Wood ’20 took 26th in the same event.

Wood said that she enjoyed fencing with such a talented group of competitors, and that the competition was a valuable learning experience.

Zhou noted how supportive the team was, particularly during saber fencer Joanna Lew’s ’17 quarterfinal bout. Lew finished in fifth place, marking her best-ever result at the Garret Open. Other notable performances included epeeist Lucy Friedmann’s ’19 12th-place result and Sarah Pak ’19 fencing her way to 15th in women’s foil.

The respective fencing teams will be heading to Massachusetts with confidence from their performances this season. If they are able to come away with several victories, the Bulldogs will have momentum heading into next year.

Following the Brandeis Invitational, the Elis will take part in a dual meet on Jan. 15 against Penn State.

Peter Chung contributed reporting.