Prior to Sunday’s 14-13 upset of the Lions, the Crimson had not defeated Columbia since 1978.
“I don’t think they underestimated us,” said senior Derek Lindblom. “I think they badly underestimated us.”
How can you blame them? Over the past 16 years, Harvard is 1-63 against current Ivy teams.
During that stretch, the Crimson’s prolific losing streak was matched only by Columbia’s dominance. As the all-time winningest NCAA program with 13 national titles, Columbia has taken 11 Ivy titles in the past 16 years.
“It is the biggest surprise of the year in college fencing,” Lindblom said.
The Lions are the current two-time defending Ivy champions and they have not lost any of their top fencers since defeating the Crimson 24-3 a year ago.
“I don’t think anyone on our team really thought we had a chance to win before the meet started,” said freshman Julian Rose.
The senior members of the team give most of the credit for the upset to the freshman and the coaching staff.
“If Columbia took us lightly, they weren’t thinking too hard,” said co-captain Scott Silver. “The eight new recruits on this team should have scared them.”
Rose was the only Harvard fencer to go undefeated on Sunday with a 3-0 record in the epee. Classmates Tim Hagamen and David Jakus both finished 2-1 in the saber, while yet another freshman, Jonathan Carter, went 2-1 in the foil.
“Had they known the talent in our freshman class, they would have taken us more seriously,” Lindblom said. “Columbia is known as a bunch of arrogant guys. They’ve been rulers of one of the best Ivy teams for a long time and Harvard has been at the bottom for so long, they just didn’t give us any respect. I think we earned their respect Sunday.”
With a young and talented freshman class, Sunday’s victory over Columbia was a signal to the league that Harvard is back as an Ivy contender after a 26-year title drought.
“I think it represents a huge turning point,” said co-captain Ben Schmidt. “We have a great shot at the Ivy title. Columbia was number one last year and returned all its key players.”
The significance of Harvard’s victory almost overshadows the dramatic final moments on the meet.
“Columbia really thought they had it won,” Lindblom said. “It was a shocking comeback at the end.”