This past weekend marked a return to the Ivy League stage as the Yale fencing teams competed at the annual Ivy League Round Robins competition, held in the Lanman Center at Payne Whitney Gymnasium. The men’s team took home third place, while the women’s squad finished in a tie for third at the Ancient Eight’s postseason championship.
Dartmouth was the only Ivy absent from the Round Robins, which featured the remaining seven conference compatriots with full teams in a fierce battle for first. The Bulldog men ended the event with victories against No. 5 Princeton, Brown and No. 10 Penn while faltering against the No. 2-ranked squads, Harvard and Columbia. Meanwhile, the women pulled off three victories against Cornell, No. 9 Penn and Brown while falling against powerhouse adversaries No. 3 Columbia, No. 5 Harvard and No. 10 Princeton.
“I’m really proud of how everyone fenced last weekend,” men’s captain and epeeist Isaac Shelanski ’20 said. “While we were disappointed because we missed out on a championship, we had the best Ivies our team has had in almost a decade, continuing our historic season.”
The men improved on last year’s record by leaps and bounds, earning four victories in 2019 over their single win against Brown a season ago. The Elis’ margins of victory also improved; last year, the Bulldogs beat the Bears 17–10 but raised their score to a staggering 26–1 victory this past weekend. While the Elis faltered against Harvard and Columbia last year by 11 and 13 points, respectively, the men shortened the gap to a mere five points for both opponents.
Shelanski walked away with the championship title, winning nine of his 12 total bouts while failing to drop a single bout to Harvard or Brown. Meanwhile, saberist Walter Musgrave ’19 ended his team season with All-Ivy First Team honors, completely sweeping his Quaker, Tiger and Bear counterparts. Foilist Earnest Chen ’22, epeeist Safi Haider ’22 and saberist Andrew Zhang ’22 also ended the weekend with awards, as each of them earned All-Ivy Second Team accolades.
“Personally, I had my best competition of the year,” Haider said. “I swept two schools after not doing so for the whole season. Making All-Ivies was an honor, and it felt great to be up there with the some of the best fencers in the country. At the end of the day, my focus is on how the team performs, and I hope that we carry this momentum into next season and perform even better next year.”
The women also improved on last year’s results, earning three wins this year as opposed to just a pair of victories in 2018. Added to this year’s hit list was Penn, which Yale defeated in a narrow 14–13 contest.
Compared to last year, the women actually posted a smaller margin of victory. In 2018, the Bulldogs toppled Brown and Cornell by 21 and 11 points, respectively, but this past weekend, they won by just 11 and five points.
“I am so, so proud of everyone for our third-place finish and beating Penn for the first time in many many years,” foilst Grace Baghdadi ’22 said. “It was truly a team effort. In particular, the foil squad did amazing, beating Harvard, Penn, Princeton, Brown and Cornell.”
Individually, some of the female fencers were also awarded all-conference recognition at the event. Foilist Camille Pham ’21 earned All-Ivy First Team honors. Women’s captain and foilist Sarah Pak ’19 was named second-team All-Ivy in what was her final Ancient Eight competition, and she was joined by foilist Anna Zhou ’20, who ended the day in fifth place.
While Baghdadi, a walk-on, posted an undefeated mark at this year’s Round Robins, she has not yet fought enough bouts to be considered for All-Ivy honors. Lucy Friedmann ’19, who like Pak fenced in her last Ivy League competition, lost only a single bout but also did not compete enough to be eligible for awards.
“I’m so proud of my entire squad,” Zhou said. “When I was fencing … I was nervous, stressed and worried. But when I looked back at my team and saw them with their arms interlocked behind each other, I felt more confident.”
The Bulldogs will next prepare for the NCAA Northeast Regionals on March 10 with qualifying fencers heading to the NCAA National Championships later in the month.
Valerie Pavilonis | email@example.com