Lukas Flippo, Senior Photographer

Seven Bulldogs helped Yale place ninth at the 2022 NCAA Fencing Championships, including Emme Zhou ’23 who was named an All-American in women’s foil. 

Notre Dame hosted the national tournament in South Bend, Indiana on Saturday, March 26 and Sunday, March 27. This competition marked Yale’s return to the fencing national championships after a hiatus since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Seven Bulldogs across both the men’s and women’s squads qualified after the team earned six top-10 finishes at NCAA Northeast Regionals on Sunday, March 13. Three Bulldogs earned top-15 finishes at NCAA Championships, including Zhou who earned the Bulldogs’ best result by placing eighth in women’s foil.

“Finishing ninth nationally with one All-American is a good ending to a very difficult season,” interim head coach Marat Israelian wrote. “I’m proud of the team for fighting with top Division I programs and not [shying] away from the challenge and beating out schools that qualified more people than us, but I [am] mainly proud of the team for being there for each other [throughout] the year, at NCAA [Championships] and Regionals especially.”

While Notre Dame clinched its second consecutive championship with 189 total team points, Yale finished with 67 total points to place ninth in a field of 27 teams. Out of the Ivies present, Yale placed fifth ahead of 14th place Cornell and 24th place Brown. 

Winning 15 out of her 23 matches, Zhou earned her second All-American selection in women’s foil after first getting the distinction in 2020. 

“It was a really long tournament with a lot of tough matches,” Zhou wrote. “I want to thank my teammates, family, and coaches for always cheering me on and supporting me throughout the two days. Big thank you to Coach Israelian and administration particularly, who were able to provide effective training plans and guide our program through this difficult season. Overall, I’m honored to have represented Yale on the podium!”

Maxwell Yee ’23 described Zhou’s second All-American title as his “absolute favorite moment of the competition.” Sydney Hirsch ’24 clinched Yale’s second top-fifteen finish of the tournament after winning 11 matches in women’s saber to place 14th.

Yale’s third top-15 finish came from Earnest Chen ’22, who capped off his last year representing Yale by placing 15th in men’s foil. 

“I am grateful that I get to qualify for national championships once again as a senior,” Chen said. “It’s exciting to fence and meet new competitors but I am also filled with nostalgia knowing that this will be my final competition as a Bulldog.”

Chen was joined in his second nationals competition by fellow foil competitor Yee in the men’s field. Rounding out the Blue and White’s men’s delegation, Safi Haider ’22 earned 20th in men’s épée with 76 touches scored.

Yee finished right behind Chen in 16th place, and both teammates noted the significance of having a fellow Bulldog in their event. Yee described it as both comforting and sad given Chen’s departure. 

“Having another teammate competing is always a huge plus,” Chen said. “We both support each other the whole way which helps keep up motivation and morale. I definitely performed better when I am competing with another Bulldog. Unfortunately, we couldn’t qualify more members of Yale to fence at NCAA Championships, but the seven of us who did really came together and helped each other perform our best.”

The Bulldogs had two representatives in women’s foil: Zhou and rookie Helen Tan ’25, who finished 17th with eight wins. Rookie Stephanie Cao ’25 competed in women’s foil with Hirsch and finished 21st. Hirsch echoed Yee and Chen’s sentiments about competing with a fellow Bulldog in the same event. 

“This competition format was neat because Stephanie and I got to travel together as a ‘pod’ as we competed,” Hirsch said. “This means that we got to watch every bout the other person fenced and thus cheer each other on the whole time. We were also able to give each other advice in addition to our coach’s input. Having that built-in support at such a challenging competition was really incredible.” 

Hirsch took a year off to maintain her fencing eligibility and hopes to return to nationals next year after missing out her first year in 2020 when the competition was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s result tied for the second-best out of the last 15 national competitions that the Bulldogs competed in. 

While rookies Ted Vinnitchouk ’24 and Erica Hooshi ’25 did not compete in nationals, they traveled with the team to Indiana. Vinnitchouk echoed Israelian’s sentiments of a stronger return next year. 

“It was an interesting experience watching my teammates compete and it inspired me to work harder for next year so that hopefully we could move up the rankings,” Ted Vinnitchouk ’24 said. “I have full confidence in our coaching staff and student-athletes that we will come back stronger next year.” 

While the 2020 NCAA Fencing Championships did not occur, the United States Fencing Coaches Association still selected NCAA Fencing All-American teams.

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.