Men's, Women's Fencing Come up Short at Ivy League Championships

They entered the Ivy League Championships with dreams of capturing the league crown, but both the Harvard men’s and women’s fencing teams left New Haven this weekend with those dreams unrealized.

For the men, this year’s Ivy tournament presented an opportunity to defend last year’s Ancient Eight title, while for the women, it was an opportunity to end a three-year drought of Ivy glory.

“I think generally the men’s performance for the weekend was pretty strong,” freshman Peregrine Badger said. “We had a really difficult matchup against Princeton that cost us the title. It ended up coming down to the final points, so at the end, either one of us could have won the title.”

On the first day of the two-day tournament hosted by Yale, the No. 3 men’s squad opened with a 2-1 record, posting wins over Ivy foes Penn, 14-13, and Yale, 15-12, while coming up just one point short against Princeton, 14-13. Leading the Crimson men through the first leg of the tournament was co-captain Valentin Staller, who earned an 8-1 record in the saber.

On the second day, the men’s squad rounded out Ivy League competition with dominant performances against Columbia, 15-12, and Brown, 18-9.

With these two victories, the Harvard men closed out the tournament with a 5-1 record, good for second place in the team standings, just behind Princeton, which emerged from the tournament unbeaten at 6-0.

Despite falling just one point short of the Ancient Eight crown, four Crimson fencers—Staller, senior James Hawrot, freshman Brian Kaneshige, and sophomore Lucas Lin—were recognized for their individual efforts and earned All-Ivy honors.

Of the four, Staller, Hawrot, and Kaneshige were named to the All-Ivy First Team after finishing the weekend 12-3, 10-5, and 11-4, respectively.

Staller’s 12-3 record over the two-day tournament left him just one win shy of the individual title in the saber.

On the women’s side, despite falling short of the league crown, the team exceeded expectations this weekend, finishing third at the Ivy League Championships.

On the first day of the competition, the No. 7 Harvard women’s fencing team defeated Penn, 15-12, and dominated Yale, 21-6, before falling to Princeton, 18-9.

For the women’s squad, the victory over the Quakers had special significance.

“We had a really tough first match with Penn,” junior co-captain Felicia Sun said. “I don’t think that anyone was expecting such a strong opposition from them, but we sort of had a miraculous comeback against them to win that match. We had to win every single bout in the final round against Penn in order to pull out the win, and we did.”

On the second day, the Crimson women narrowly dropped its first matchup against Columbia but eventually claimed a 14-13 victory before posting two strong 18-9 results against Brown and Cornell to wrap up the competition.

By weekend’s end, the Tigers had successfully completed a three-peat of the women’s Ivy League title with an unbeaten 6-0 record, while Harvard finished in third with a record of 4-2 for the second straight year.

Leading the Crimson women at the Ivy League Championships were sophomore Alexandra Kiefer and junior Kathy Chou, who both finished the weekend with 13-5 records, good enough for two first-team All-Ivy nods in the foil.

Freshman Emma Vaggo, co-captain Caroline Vloka, and Sun were also recognized for their individual performances with second-team All-Ivy selections in the épée, saber, and épée, respectively.

With the Ivy League Championships behind them, the Crimson men and women will face off against local rivals at the Beanpot on Tuesday at the Malkin Athletic Center. NCAA Regionals and NCAA Championships are also on the slate for the Crimson in the coming weeks.

“What we are going to work on in the next couple of weeks is to really tune up our team’s dynamic,” Sun said. “The best thing we can do to improve as a team is to increase our level of communication with one another, improve our mental toughness and to become more team-performance-oriented and less individual-results focused.”

—Staff writer Oluwatoni A. Campbell can be reached at oluwatoni.campbell@college.harvard.edu.

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