Eleven Harvard fencers made the trip to Columbus, Ohio to compete in the NCAA Championships this past week, facing off against the best collegiate fencers in the nation. After over two-dozen bouts in the sabre event, freshman Adrienne Jarocki brought home an individual title over teammate Aliya Itzkowitz, leading the Crimson to a fifth-place finish as a squad.
“Team-wise, I thought we had a little better shot at getting a bit higher,” Harvard coach Peter Brand said. “We were very close…. But never in the history of Harvard fencing have we had a 1-2 finish in an individual event…so in that respect, it was a great four days for us."
The final bout of the women’s sabre event was an all-Crimson affair Friday afternoon, with top-seeded Itzkowitz on the strip against Jarocki. The situation presented an odd challenge for Harvard fencers and affiliates on hand.
“There’s no coaching then, no real cheering because we’re from the same school,” Jarocki said. “Coach [Brand] can’t really coach, and no one is going to cheer for someone from the same school.”
Needing only one touch to win in the first-to-15 touch final, Jarocki patiently retreated as her Crimson counterpart advanced down the strip, beating her blade in the process. As the sophomore began her overhead attack, the freshman saw her chance and attacked in preparation to secure the bout.
“It was kind of a perfect situation, to be honest,” Jarocki said. “There’s no one else I would have rather fenced in the finals because either way, the team would be taking home gold and silver, and if I had lost, it would have been to someone that I love and respect.”
Though Jarocki beat Itzkowitz for the championship, the latter had eked out a 5-4 victory when the two had met in pool play.
“I was really pleased overall,” Itzkowitz said. “I struggled to be consistent [last year] and that’s the key in this tournament if you want to make the top four…. This year I managed to find that zone and enjoy myself, not thinking too much about my record.”
Further demonstrating the Ivy League’s strength in the weapon, Princeton’s Gracie Stone tied for third after falling to Jarocki, 15-10, in the semifinals.
On the women’s foil side, it was a Kiefer that won the title this year, but not Harvard’s Alexandra Kiefer; her Notre Dame sophomore sister, Lee, took first with a 13-10 victory over fellow Fighting Irish teammate Madison Zeiss.
For the Crimson Kiefer, her 16-7 record was good enough for sixth in the 24-person pool, but her plus-26 indicator was three touches short to squeeze her into the final four and a shot at her second NCAA women’s foil individual title. The senior finished her NCAA championships career with a gold, two sixth-place finishes, and an eleventh place finish.
“Kiefer has been an extremely consistent fencer for us,” Itzkowitz said. “She put in a great performance for [the team] in her final year.”