Yale’s fencing teams on Saturday took the strip at the Penn Elite Invitational to start their seasons. Both squads gave strong performances in their six matches with the men’s team winning five and the women four.
The men’s and women’s teams ended last season ranked eighth and ninth, respectively, under former coach Henry Harutunian, who was replaced in May after 49 years on the job. The new head of the program, Haibin Wang, was the assistant coach at Yale and a two-time Olympic medalist. Wang made an immediate impression this weekend facing off successfully against the best teams in the country.
“I was very excited with the team’s performance on Saturday,” men’s captain Isaac Shelanski ’20 said. “We took down two of the top four teams in the country, and we’re just getting started. Saturday was far from a perfect performance, and we will only get better as the season goes on. I was really impressed with the way our first years handled their first competition. However, as a team, we learned some of the dangers of a 10-hour, six-round meet, and we can definitely improve on keeping our energy and intensity up throughout long days of competition.”
The women’s fencing team started the tournament against Penn State, where the Bulldogs narrowly defeated the Nittany Lions 14-13 thanks to the clinching heroics of epeeists Joy Ma ’22 and Michelle Nam ’20. Rookie Emme Zhou ’23 proved herself on the piste, foiling the hopes of her opponents with an 11-plus differential and leading her fellow foil teammates to a 6–3 win. The sabres also won their bouts 5-4 with Francesca Federovsky ’21 going undefeated in the contest.
The men’s fencing team also started their tournament against Penn State, who ended last season second in national rankings. This match saw the emergence of rookie Allan Ding ’23, a foilist and former gold medal winner at the 2017 November North American Cup in Junior Men’s Foil. Ding came up clutch in his last match to assure the 14-13 Bulldog victory.
“The team lives for these moments,” Ding said. “Of course, they only come after the hours spent together in the training room. So, after returning from the first tournament of the season, I feel confident that this coming season is ours for the taking and am looking forward to experiencing it with this momentous team.”
The men’s success, however, did not stop there. After defeating the Nittany Lions, the men overcame a Notre Dame side that finished third in the country last season. But the women’s team could not reciprocate and fell to a formidable Fighting Irish squad. The women also lost against Cornell in its final match of the day but defeated Ohio State, John Hopkins and the New Jersey Institute of Technology.
Yale’s men’s team joined its female counterparts in beating Ohio State and Johns Hopkins. The male squad also beat Air Force, but lost as the women won over the New Jersey Institute of Technology team. The best performance of the weekend was Maxwell Yee ’21, who went 10-1.
“Overall, I think it went pretty well considering that this was a completely new tournament for most of us,” Zhou said. “Thinking back now, there were definitely bouts that I could’ve worked harder for and fenced better in, but for my first meet of the season, I’m happy with the way it went and how I was able to adjust.”
The Elis travel to Happy Valley next weekend for the Penn State Garrett Open.
Eugenio Garza Garcia | firstname.lastname@example.org
Correction, Nov. 18: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the men’s fencing team beat Army, when in fact the team beat Air Force. It also misstated the best performance of the men’s tournament.