The Yale fencing teams competed in their first competition since March 2020 and their first bouts with Marat Israelian as interim head coach.

The Blue and White traveled to Penn State to open their season in the Max Garret Open on Saturday and Sunday. Yale and Columbia were the only Ancient Eight teams present at the competition, which featured seven other teams in the men’s and nine in the women’s competition. The women’s team saw three individuals place within the top 10 of the epee and foil contest, while the men’s team featured one top 10 placement in the saber category.

“I’m proud of the team,” Israelian said. “The team did really well. We had two generations of fencers who hadn’t fenced. I’m proud of the entire team because of their different levels. Going painstakingly through the rounds, everyone was fighting to win and fighting to understand what they needed to change.”

The tournament opened with two rounds of round robin play, followed by direct elimination. Seeding for the third round saw each player graded from the highest tier of A to E, and then further classified by number. All of the Bulldogs across both teams received a rating of C or above.

Coming into the season, neither the sophomores nor the first years on either squad had collegiate fencing experience. To add to that setback, four starters were unable to play in this weekend’s tournament due to injury or illness. Israelian stressed that the older members of the team played a vital role in helping younger players.

“This was my first ever competition and I’m a sophomore,” Christina Zozulya ’24 said. “I’ve been on the team for a year now, but I had never seen the team dynamic in competition. Once we started competing, it was incredible. Everyone was there for each other regardless of what weapon was fencing, guys and girls. The energy was unmatched.”

The women’s team competed on Saturday and earned three top 10 finishes. In foil, rookie Erica Hooshi ’25 earned eighth-place and Yale’s best finish in the category, while teammate Emme Zhou ’23 followed by taking ninth. Linda Liu ’23 placed 10th in epee, followed by Zozulya in 15th. Sydney Hirsch ’24 and Stephanie Cao ’25 finished in 15th and 18th, respectively, for Yale’s top finishes in saber.

The men’s team competed on Sunday beginning with foil, where rookie Fyze Tulyag ’25 clinched the Bulldogs’ best finish in the category by placing 13th. Ted Vinnitchouk ’24 earned the Bulldogs’ best epee placement with his 11th place finish. Charlson Kim ’24 was the sole Eli on the men’s team to place within the top 10 as he fought his way to place seventh. 

Yale’s fencing teams will travel to the Brandeis Invitation in Waltham, Massachusetts during the weekend of Saturday, Dec. 4 for their second competition of the season.

Hamera Shabbir covers golf and fencing for the Sports desk and the School of the Environment for the Science and Technology desk. Originally from California's Central Valley, she is a sophomore in Branford College majoring in Environmental Studies.