Fencing Routs Tufts, 26-1

The Harvard women’s fencing team (5-0) cruised to a 26-1 win over Tufts (0-3) at the Malkin Athletic Center Friday evening. The Crimson’s foil and epee divisions posted perfect 9-0 bout records to wrap up team competition for the fall semester.

Harvard was dominant across the board against a Jumbos program that is now 0-for-20 against the Crimson all-time. In the foil division, co-captain Katherine Chou did not allow a single touch in her three bouts. Fellow co-captain and 2011 NCAA individual champion Alexandra Kiefer yielded only one.

In the epee division, freshman Nina van Loon built off her 14-1 performance at last weekend’s tournament in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., with three more bout wins against the Jumbos. She, too, allowed just a single touch in her final two bouts.

“It’s hard to fence really clean with epee, but I think my last two bouts were how I wanted to fence—just really clean,” van Loon said.

The Crimson yielded its only bout in the sabre division.

Harvard has not defeated an opponent so soundly since a 27-0 shutout of North Carolina in December 2010. Following the meet, Crimson coach Peter Brand praised his team’s efforts but expressed disappointment in the Tufts fencing program, noting the absence of a Jumbos’ coach from the meet.

“Their coach doesn’t pay attention, doesn’t want to get into it,” Brand said. “It’s really discouraging.”

Last season, the Crimson defeated Tufts, 22-4. Harvard has outscored the Jumbos, 114-20, over their last five meetings and has not lost to the Jumbos since the two programs first met in 1981.

Friday night was Harvard’s last home meet of the season before the Crimson hosts the rest of the Ancient Eight in the Ivy League Championships, Feb. 9-10. As the semester comes to a close, Brand is looking ahead to the second half of the season as both his men’s and women’s programs hope to contend for titles.

“Our primary mission is to win the Ivy League Championship,” Brand said. “Both these teams have a chance at it this year. I think our men’s team is a little deeper…. But our women, if they fence the way they did today, are also going to be very competitive.”

The Harvard men’s fencing team is 4-1 on the season. The Crimson men’s and women’s only match losses of the season came against Penn State last weekend in Poughkeepsie.

Following final exams, the Harvard fencers will not catch much of a break. Most plan to train with their home club teams over the winter holiday, and the Crimson will return to Cambridge during J-term for team practices.

“You can’t take a break in the middle of the season,” Brand said. “They’re going to be working very hard.”

The Jan. 26 St. John’s Invitational in Queens, N.Y., looms large on the horizon for the Crimson. The invite will include defending NCAA women’s champion Ohio State and Ivy League rival Columbia. The Crimson will also face Notre Dame, Penn State and St. John’s—the three teams that placed just ahead of the No. 6 2011-12 Harvard women’s squad in the final national rankings last year.

“Going into January we have some really tough matches coming up, and that’s going to determine how we look this year,” Brand said.

Meanwhile, several Crimson fencers hope to improve their individual rankings in the coming weeks for national team berths. On Thursday, van Loon will take an international flight to Munich to compete at a World Cup tournament.

“It’s great for finals,” van Loon laughed. “You have to focus really hard.”