The Yale men’s and women’s fencing teams began their season this weekend at the Penn State Garret Open, a unique competition where ranked individuals instead of teams square off. The event served as an early season primer for the Bulldogs to gauge their skills in preparation for NCAA qualifying tournaments in March.
Competitors fought throughout the weekend, with the women battling on Saturday and the men following suit on Sunday morning. The Bulldogs faced fierce competition, crossing blades with fencers from schools such as Ohio State and Notre Dame, which are NCAA-ranked No. 1 and No. 3, respectively, in the men’s division and No. 3 and No. 2, respectively, in the women’s rankings. Despite the strength of their adversaries, the teams fared well against premier competition.
“Every year it’s just a gauge of where are we going into our actual competition season and where are the areas that we need to improve and what have we been doing strongly in practice,” epeeist Lucy Friedmann ’19 said. “This tournament, we did extremely well, and traditionally, we’ve actually been getting stronger and stronger as a team … It puts us in a really strong position going into this season.”
According to Friedmann, the Garret Open does not impact NCAA qualification or team rankings.
Still, members of the women’s team placed admirably, with captain and foilist Sarah Pak ’19 placing sixth and foilist Anna Zhou ’20 clinching fifth in the foil category.
Joy Ma ’22 led the Bulldogs in the epee competition, placing sixth overall against formidable opponents. Ma lost by one touch to Notre Dame’s Amanda Sirico, who ranks No. 5 in the United States.
“We have been training hard as a team, and I am grateful for our foil coach, Haibin Wang, and his coaching,” Zhou said. “I went into Saturday with a positive mindset, and I think having my teammates cheering me on really helped me give it my all.”
The men’s team followed with more strong performances on Sunday. Captain Isaac Shelanski ’20 led the Bulldogs in epee, slicing his way to sixth place, while fellow epeeist Safi Haider ’22 earned an 11th-place mark. Dylan French of Notre Dame took the top spot in epee, joining Sirico in an Irish-led sweep of the competition. Three Bulldog saberists finished in the top 15, led by Walter Musgrave ’19 who took 12th.
Cameron Allen ’21 led the charge in foil, just barely missing a bronze medal with a fifth-place finish. Foilist Earnest Chen ’22 came in behind Allen, placing 14th out of 64 participants in his first collegiate competition.
“College fencing is different from what I’m used to,” Chen said. “It’s definitely a great experience, lots of people cheering you on. I got to fence with people I didn’t see since they entered college. Our team did well, and I think we’ll keep getting better as the season progresses.”
Zhou echoed Chen, adding that she looks forward to the Bulldogs’ next tournament at Brandeis. Last year, the women swept the competition, even defeating eighth-ranked St. John’s. While the men’s team lost to the Red Storm, it still prevailed over schools like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Boston College.
The Brandeis Invitational will take place on Dec. 2 in Waltham, Massachusetts.
Valerie Pavilonis | email@example.com .