The Yale men’s fencing team opened the new year with a strong tournament performance against high-quality opposition and returned to New Haven with a winning record. The Elis’ women fencers failed to scale the heights they achieved before break, as they dropped five out of their six matches against talented foes, many by slim margins.
The Bulldog men vanquished Duke and Haverford in competitive matches and trounced North Carolina, although they fell just short against Penn State and Columbia. The women annihilated Haverford, dominating 25 of the 27 bouts in play, before suffering heartbreaking final-bout losses to the Blue Devils and Temple, and hard-fought defeats to the Tar Heels, Lions and Nittany Lions.
“We have three exceptionally solid squads this year,” foilist Daniel Flesch ’19 said. “Our fencing is balanced, guileful and consistent. On any given day we might baffle an opponent. … Consistency in fencing is difficult.”
Both teams faced a similar slate of squads, highlighted by the two gold standards of college fencing, Columbia and Penn State. Columbia is two-time defending national champions, while Penn State last lifted the national title in 2014, its 13th success in the last 27 years.
The men opened up the day with an 18–9 loss to Penn State. Their subsequent 22–5 destruction of North Carolina — the Elis’ third triumph of the season against the Tar Heels — brought them back to .500 on the day. Another tough matchup, this time against Ivy rival Columbia, doomed Yale to a second defeat on the day with a score of 17–10.
The Bulldogs rebounded to beat Haverford by an identical 17–10 margin and concluded the day with a tight 15–12 victory over Duke. The entire epee squad produced an exquisite performance against the Blue Devils to carry Yale to victory in the only match where the foil squad did not emerge victorious. The foil squad won the majority of its nine bouts in each of the other matches on the day.
After many fencers participated in the North American Cup the previous weekend, the team continued its positive performances from before break.
“The flames of Eli were fanned especially by team effort from Jon Xu ’19, Isaac [Shelanski] ’20, Malcolm ‘The Milkman’ [Miller] ’20, Avery [Vella] ’18 and Fred [Muth] ’17,” epeeist Skyler Chin ’19 said. “Those of us who participated in the North American Cup during the beginning of winter training had a splendid opportunity to shake the ice off our bones and rekindle our competitive spirit.”
Flesch paced Yale with a 13–2 overall record, sweeping Penn State, Columbia and North Carolina. Shelanski went 8–4 on the day and swept Haverford, while fellow freshman epeeist Miller went 6–1.
The Yale women enjoyed a five-win weekend in their last tournament before break, but despite staying competitive throughout this tournament, they failed to prevail in the close matches, resulting in a 1–5 final record.
“What really killed us throughout the day is the fact that if you add up our scores,” epeeist and captain Katherine Miller ’17 said, “We had a total record of 74 individual wins against 88 individual losses, and of those 88 losses, 22 were by a single point. Having so many close losses shows that we’re definitely on the right path to be competitive with even the toughest of schools, and I think the knowledge that we were so close so many times this weekend will be great motivation to work extra hard in the next few weeks to turn those close losses into close wins.”
The Elis slaughtered Haverford 25–2 for their only win of the tournament. The other matches provided a litany of near misses. Against Temple and Duke, the Bulldogs were tied 13–13 heading into the final fight of the day, but dropped the decisive bout 5–4 to slip to defeat. Yale split two matches with North Carolina earlier in the season, but the Tar Heels triumphed in the rubber match.
Talented Penn State and Columbia teams proved too hot for the Bulldogs to handle, as they both emerged victorious from their duels. The highlights of the day for the Yale women came from Miller, who defeated Penn State’s Jessie Radanovich — the defending individual national epee champion — and senior sabre fencer Joey Lew ’17 swept all of her Columbia bouts.
“As far as the effect of break, I think that might have unfortunately interrupted some of our momentum from last semester, where we had two consecutive great performances,” Miller said. “However, we have been training really hard since we came back and I’m confident that we’ll be able to bounce back from this meet. We all know what we need to work on, and we have just under three weeks until our next competition, so we should have ample time to recover and recharge.”
Both teams will next compete against Vassar on Feb. 4.