The Yale men’s and women’s fencing teams ended 2016–17 on a high note, qualifying eight fencers for the National Championships and placing 12th at the event in Indianapolis, the Elis’ highest finish since 2013. But after graduating several of their key contributors, the young Bulldogs have several holes to fill heading into their first nonexhibition meet on Dec. 3.
Facing significant turnover from last season, the Bulldogs have added 11 new fencers to this season’s roster — six on the women’s team and five on the men’s team. These new members of the team will have little time to acclimate themselves to college fencing, with Ivy League Round-Robins in February.
Yale fans got their first glimpse of the 2017 team at the 45th annual Garret Penn State Open on Nov. 4–5, in which the fencers competed individually rather than as a team. The Bulldogs sent multiple fencers to the Round of 16 in each weapon.
“At Penn State, we were able to see even the sophomores really stepping up and taking leadership roles they may not have if there were as many seniors,” captain and saberist Ilana Kamber ’18 said. “Everyone who’s not a first year is really motivated by last year’s results and is working on ingraining that kind of motivation in our new fencers.”
Kamber also noted that the Garret Open served as a valuable season opener for the team because it allowed the Bulldogs to gauge how they stacked up against other competitive teams like Harvard and Columbia.
Both the new and returning fencers produced exceptional showings at the tournament. The women’s foil squad performed especially well, sending all four of its members to the top 16. Foilist Sarah Pak ’19 took the top spot for the team, finishing third in her division. In addition to the success of the foil team, epeeists Michelle Li ’20 and Michelle Nam ’20 placed seventh and 12th, respectively. From sabre, Lauren Kim ’21 finished 13th, Francesca Fedorovsky ’21 finished 14th and Kamber finished 15th.
On the men’s team, Cameron Allen ’21, the newest member of the foil team, placed sixth. Allen posted the highest finish for the men’s team alongside Jonathan Xu ’19, who placed sixth in the epee division. Six other Bulldogs on the men’s side also finished in the top 16 in their respective weapon categories.
“[The tournament] was really good warm-up to see where everyone is on the team,” captain and epeeist Avery Vella ’18 said. “Everybody was getting into the college season and competing hard, and I definitely liked what I saw.”
He added that the individual format of the competition contributed to the “relaxed vibe” of the team, which served as the perfect way to start the season.
Pak said she appreciated the amount of support her team demonstrated throughout the competition, especially during her second direct-elimination bout against a fencer from Penn State.
“The whole Penn State team was there cheering for her, but Yale was cheering and screaming right back at them,” Pak said. “That energy was just so motivating and encouraging for me.”
Moving forward, Kamber said she hopes to see this team-wide support throughout the season, both at practice and at competitions. She added that one of the keys to victory in future tournaments is working hard at home by getting in “quality, competition-level bouts” during practice.
Vella expressed his goals for the season in the long run, adding that tournaments later in the season will pose an exciting challenge for the Bulldogs. One of those tournaments is the Ivy League Round-Robins, which occurs in February and will pit Yale against its Ancient Eight rivals. Last season, the Elis placed fourth at the event.
“We’re hoping for a little bit more success at Ivy League championships this year, and I think we can put up a big fight to win, but we’ll have to work hard for that,” Vella said.
Both teams open their team seasons on Dec. 3 at the Brandeis Invitational.
Amber Hu | firstname.lastname@example.org