After the first annual Beanpot tournament brought heartbreak for the men’s half of the Harvard fencing team last fall, both the men and women made good and sure the second edition of the competition brought no doubts as to who is the best squad in Beantown.
The women repeated and the men won the tournament for the first time yesterday evening in Chestnut Hill, Mass., defeating MIT, Boston College, and Brandeis.
The women started fast and finished strong, never winning by fewer than 13 bouts, besting MIT 22-5, BC 21-6, and Brandeis 20-7.
The Crimson was led by solid performances from its foil fencers. The deepest weapon on the squad, the foil boasts an Olympic medalist in co-captain Emily Cross, a gutsy freshman in Shelby MacLeod, and junior Anna Podolsky who competed at NCAAs last spring. The trio went a combined 26-1 on the day, with the lone defeat coming in one of Podolsky’s bouts.
“We have a tremendous freshman named Shelby MacLeod who went undefeated in her matches, despite the fact that she was having a hamstring problem,” Harvard coach Peter Brand said. “She picked up her game and was fantastic. Really a steady, skilled fencer.”
Not to be outdone, two other rookies got in on the domination, with freshman epee fencer Noam Mills and classmate and sabre fencer Caroline Vloka both going undefeated on the night.
While neither the epee nor the sabre could boast quite as strong a depth chart or performance as the foil, they held their own.
The epee posted the stronger of the two performances, as the top two fencers in Mills and senior Maria Larsson overwhelmed the competition. The sabre had the 9-0 performance from Vloka, but struggled with its youth.
“On the women’s side, our biggest problem right now is the sabre, because we have Vloka, but the other two are just not as experienced,” Brand said. “Overall, in the depth chart, it’s a little light.”
On the men’s side, two of the three meets produced tougher competition, but the team was able to pull out wins 15-12 over MIT, 20-7 over BC, and 16-11 over Brandeis.
Last year it was the Judges that crushed all hopes for a title in the first edition of the Beanpot; this year MIT added to the already mounting pressure from the tough Brandeis squad, giving Harvard more than a run for its money.
“We struggled, it was unexpected against the MIT men who gave them a good fight,” Brand said. “They all fenced extremely well, specifically the sabre squad…so it was a close one, the men looked very sluggish, but they picked it up against BC.”
The men seemed to need the break between tough MIT and Brandeis squads, using the softer Eagles’ as a punching bag.
The Crimson was led by a standout performance from a foil squad that benefited from the return of previously-injured sophomore Hao Meng and the continuation of strong play from co-captain Kai Itameri-Kinter.
“Hao looked a little jittery, but against BC the foil squad went 8-1, and this was a really good one for them…they were our strongest squad for sure, and I think a big part of that was having Hao Meng back,” Brand said.
“And Kai is by far our star, always very steady, very solid,” Brand said. “He’s our big gun.”
After winning the first two meets, the first title for the men went through the reigning champion Brandeis, who wasn’t ready to give up without a fight.
Down its top foil fencer from last year, the Harvard foil squad took advantage, going 7-2.
But that was the lone strong point for the Crimson in the matchup. The epee squad struggled to a 5-4 loss without co-captain Benji Ungar out with an injury, and the sabre squad fared only slightly better.
“We’ve had some injuries, and so I’m hoping when things heat up everyone will get healthy,” Brand said. “We’re kind of lucky. We’re a little sluggish now, but having everybody healthy again would really make a difference.”
—Staff writer Madeleine I. Shapiro can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.