FENCING: Yale secures resounding victory at Vassar Open Invitational
An overhauled roster and attitude could precipitate the best Yale womens’ fencing team seen in years.
The Yale Fencing Team competed in the Vassar Open Invitational this weekend, accentuating their long-anticipated return to the piste. Both the men’s and women’s teams secured triumphant victories against their long list of competitors.
Last year, the women’s team suffered a string of unfortunate injuries that debilitated their Ivy League Championship hopes. Following a high-powered 2027 recruiting class, the team has replenished their losses and returned better than ever.
Alexa Drovetsky ’27, a first-year épée fencer, appeared ecstatic upon her late-night return to New Haven.
“Last year we sputtered because we had to forfeit almost half of our bouts near the end of the season,” Drovetsky said. “But this is one of the best women’s teams we’ve had in recent years — the Class of 2027 is simply incredible.”
Under head coach Marat Israelian’s instruction, the team continues to forge a tight-knit culture. According to Stephanie Cao ’25, teammates invest a genuine interest in each other’s lives, molding a family inside and outside of practices and game settings.
The fencing family can be traced back to the introduction of ‘Captain’s Practice’ during the beginning of the 2023-24 season. These organized venues placed a higher emphasis on constructing camaraderie and unity within the team dynamic. Clear leadership would serve a critical role in guiding the team through the triumphs and disappointments of the arduous season.
The fruits of their commitment were clearly displayed at the Vassar Open Invitational.
Cao, a prominent saber on the women’s team, captured the weekend’s successes in three simple words. “We killed it,” she told the News.
The Women’s team competed against Vassar College, Hunter College, Stevens Institute of Technology, Wellesley College, Johns Hopkins University, Tufts University and Drew University. They suffered only one loss, falling 14–13 to the highly-ranked Cornell Bears.
The tight loss is no cause for alarm, but rather a fountain of hope for team morale.
Drovetsky, who has fenced Cornell competitors through several international tournaments, knew what to expect as she stepped on the piste. While the match did not turn in Yale’s direction, Drovetsky did not fret about the underdogs’ return to glory.
“We’re not even in the coaches’ ranking system, so we are the underdogs going into this year,” she said to the News. “Next time a bout is going to flip in our direction and we’ll take down Cornell.”
The Men’s team staged an equally valiant effort. They won each of their matches with relative ease.
Max Deisboeck ’27, a walk-on saber fencer, emphasized the importance of the tournament in cultivating team confidence. They proved to themselves and their competition that they are a force to be reckoned with in the Ivy League.
Deisboeck’s seamless integration into the team culture is a testament to the fencing family. Teammates treat Deisboeck with fairness and respect, no differently than his recruited counterparts.
“Coach Marat is trying to instill a disciplined and dedicated regimen to the team—coming to practice early and on time, putting 110 percent effort into practice, and making sure that effort comes out in the tournaments,” he told the News. “As a walk-on, I’m trying to prove to my teammates that I possess the same discipline, commitment and intangibles as everyone else.”
The fencing team awaits prominent tournaments at Penn State and other Ivy League institutions. They are equipped with the mental, physical and social tools to defy expectations and wreak havoc among America’s top-tier fencing programs.
The men’s and women’s fencing teams are set to face Brandeis on Sunday, Dec. 3, in Waltham, Mass.