Yale Athletics

Following a week of intense training over winter break, the women’s fencing team started the new year with a solid performance at the Penn State Invitational on Sunday, conquering three out of six teams at the tournament. But Yale’s male fencers failed to keep up their momentum from before break, losing all but one of their matches against some of the nation’s top-ranked teams.

The No. 10 Bulldog women annihilated Haverford and secured tight wins over North Carolina and Duke, although they suffered close losses against Columbia, Temple and Penn State. The Eli men vanquished Haverford, although they endured tough losses to Penn State, North Carolina, Columbia and Duke.

“Sunday was a very long day for us, probably one of the longest days of our season,” women’s captain and saberist Ilana Kamber ’18 said. “But I’m proud of how focused everyone stayed throughout the day … everyone did a good job of not being intimidated by the results other teams have had in past seasons and really just fighting for every bout.”

At the tournament, the Bulldogs faced some of the toughest teams in the arena of collegiate fencing — the Lions, Nittany Lions and Blue Devils all ranked in the top 10 of last season’s NCAA standings. Penn State has captured 13 NCAA championship titles in the last 28 years, while Columbia was the 2015–16 NCAA champion.

The Eli women opened up the day by taking on No. 4 Penn State, but fell in a 19–8 defeat. They then bounced back by securing a decisive 15–12 victory over the Tar Heels. After two hard-fought matches, the women’s team was narrowly edged out by Ivy rival No. 1 Columbia in a heartbreaking 15–12 defeat.

The fourth match of the day culminated in a blowout victory against the Fords, with a final 24–3 record. On its way to the victory, the women’s saber squad triumphed over Haverford in all nine of its bouts. But in another tough matchup, Yale could not pull out a win against No. 8 Temple and ended the match with a close 15–12 result. The Bulldog women then capped off the day with a spectacular 15–12 win over the Blue Devils, who placed ninth in last season’s NCAA rankings.

“I’m really proud of how our team supported each other both on and off the strip,” foilist Sarah Pak ’19 said. “Before going against Columbia, we all had a pep talk and tried to raise confidence and give support to each other, and during the match we tried to take it one bout at a time and tried not to think about the overall score.”

The women’s strong performances were bolstered by highlights from individual team members. Saberist Lauren Kim ’21 notched a perfect record in her bouts against North Carolina and Duke, while epeeist Michelle Li ’20 went undefeated against powerhouse team Columbia. Pak and foilist Camille Pham ’21 swept Penn State and Temple, respectively.

The men’s team, which battled without two of its foilists due to injuries, fell to No. 6 Penn State, North Carolina and No. 1 Columbia. After a morning of disheartening losses, the Elis found their stride and claimed a 17–10 victory over the Fords, with the epee squad capturing eight of those wins. Despite this commanding victory, the Yale men failed to prevail against the Blue Devils, ending the day with their fourth loss.

Even with the setbacks, all three squads enjoyed strong showings throughout the day. Foilist Aiden Ahn ’20 emerged victorious in all of his bouts against Haverford and North Carolina, and saberist Walter Musgrave ’19 swept all of his bouts against North Carolina. In addition, due to injury, foilist Lance Chantiles-Wertz ’19 stepped into the final starting slot.

“It was a really tough meet, but in the end it’s just an experience,” said epeeist Jonathan Xu ’19. “When you’re fencing tough schools, it’s great if you win, but most of the time just fencing those higher-level fencers and getting the experience in is really important, too.”

Both teams will compete this weekend in the Philadelphia Invitational, hosted by Penn.

Amber Hu | amber.hu@yale.edu