FEMALE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR RUNNER-UP: Sabre Impresses On National Stage

Freshman sabre fencer Caroline Vloka has let the entire nation know that she is here to stay.

Vloka capped off an impressive rookie season last March, finishing the NCAA tournament with a silver medal in the sabre, second in the nation to Duke freshman Becca Ward.

As one of the most consistent fencers on the women’s team, Vloka participated in every match for the Crimson this year, guiding the team to a 20-1 overall record. Vloka, a stranger to defeat, finished with a perfect record in many key tournaments throughout the year.

She went 12-0 in the second part of the Ivy Championships, 6-0 against defending national champion Ohio State and St. John’s, and 9-0 in the annual Beanpot tournament. This, along with various other stellar performances, places Vloka among the best fencers in the country.

“After the first day [of NCAAs], when I saw I was in top four and had my tough bouts out of the way, I felt really confident and really happy with my fencing,” Vloka said.

But when Vloka found out she would face Ward in the championship bout, she knew about her opponent’s past and how tough a first-place finish would be. The girls have fenced each other since the age of ten, and Vloka has never quite been able to show dominance over Ward. Because of this, Vloka found it was difficult to mentally prepare for the match.

“I was really nervous and it really showed in my bout,” she said.

Luckily, the rookie will have three more years to fight for the top spot in the country.

“Caroline had a great year,” Harvard coach Peter Brand said. “She was a very good fencer on the junior level and has really been a tremendous competitor for our squad this year.”

Vloka exited the preliminary rounds of the NCAA tournament with a 20-3 record and 105 touches. Her accomplishments in the tournament earned her first-team All-American and first-team All-Ivy League honors. Vloka ultimately fell to Ward, 15-4, in the final bout of her season.

The rookie attributes much of her and the team’s success to chemistry. In a sport where individual accolades could easily override the unity of the team, the women’s squad was able to win many matches this year by members of the team winning key bouts at the right times.

“I’m really happy I came into freshman year with this team,” Vloka said. “It helped to have someone to fall back on. We really clicked.”

The women’s squad will lose a few key fencers to graduation next year, including co-captain Emily Cross and senior epee Maria Larsson. Vloka will now be asked to carry Harvard in a different way—as one of its leaders.

“Both her and [classmate Noam Mills], unusually, as freshmen will be coming into their sophomore years as captains,” Brand said.

—Staff writer Melissa Schellberg can be reached at mlschell@fas.harvard.edu.

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