Fencing Finishes a Combined 1-9 at St. John’s Invitational

The Harvard fencing team opened its 2013 slate at the St. John’s Invitational in Queens, N.Y., going 0-5 on the women’s side (5-6) and 4-1 on the men’s team (5-5) against top-10 opponents on Saturday.

Junior co-captain Alexandra Kiefer posted the strongest record of the team through the tournament. Kiefer, who specializes in foil, notched a 13-2 record.

“She’s a rock,” freshman teammate Nina van Loon said. ”She’s insanely consistent and totally confident in basically everything. If I could fence like her, my life would be complete.”

The No. 8 women’s team began the day with a slim loss to No. 3 Columbia, 14-13. While the women successfully took the sabre bouts, 6-3, and edged the Lions in epee, 5-4, they fell to their opponents in the foil, 7-2.

While the next contest would see No. 4 Ohio State best the Crimson, 17-10, Harvard responded with two close bouts against No. 5 Penn State and No. 2 Notre Dame, both 14-13 losses.

Again, the Crimson was able to take the epee event against the Nittany Lions and the Irish, both by scores of 5-4. Harvard similarly won the sabre against Penn State, 6-3, but dropped the same event against Notre Dame, 6-3. Foil again proved to be a losing effort for the team, as the women lost 6-3 and 5-4, respectively.

“I feel like the women’s team as a whole performed really well, especially given the fact that we were down one of our foilists on the squad, and our foil squad is already down a foilist,” van Loon said.

Loon noted that despite the loss, the teamwork displayed by all involved is a good sign for the future.

“The fact that we had two girls that were willing to fence foil, when they don’t really fence foil and were trying their hardest to do well even though they don’t have much time to train, is really impressive,” Loon said. “I was really proud to be part of the team.”

In the final match of the day, the Crimson fell to the hosting No. 6 St. John’s team, 16-11. The Red Storm swept Harvard, winning the foil, 6-3, and the sabre and epee, 5-4.

Epee proved to be the strongest event for the Crimson, with two fencers, van Loon, and sophomore Emma Vaggo, each winning eight bouts.

“I would say my performance was really up and down just because it was the hardest tournament ever because there were so many strong teams that show up,” van Loon said.

Freshman Aliya Itzkowitz also recorded eight wins in her event, the sabre.

The No. 6 men’s team opened the Invitational with Harvard’s sole win, an 18-9 defeat of No. 7 Columbia.

“The Columbia sabre team is very strong,” freshman Duncan O’Brien said. “It includes two highly ranked junior members. They’re a very experienced team and it was great how well we fenced against them.”