NEW YORK--The Harvard fencing team, still smarting from an embarrassing last-place finish in the Ivy League, arrived here yesterday hoping to redeem itself somewhat with a respectable showing in the IFA Eastern fencing Championships which open today at NYU.
While the Crimson cannot realistically hope to challenge for the Eastern title, Harvard, with potential strength in foil and sabre, could finish in the top five. However, since Edo Marion's squad has a perplexing tendency to defy probability, there is really no way to accurately predict where the Crimson will stand when the IFA's conclude Saturday.
In last year's Easterns the Harvard team that stormed to a second-place finish in the Ivies collapsed in the Easterns, and only the sabre squad put together a respectable showing, finishing fifth overall.
This weekend, the smart money again would back the sabre men to lead the Harvard effort. With veteran performers like Terry Valenzuela (who missed the finals last year only because he lost a fence-off for the last slot) and Gordon Rutledge, Marion can count on a reasonably strong showing. While Valenzuela lost out in his bid to make the All-Ivy fencing squad through the proverbial "choke" in the season's finale against Yale (he lost three straight bouts), he is still one of the finest sabre men in the East, and should have little trouble making the finals.
Rutledge is a little harder to figure. After an outstanding freshman season on the varsity a year ago, he has not been able to fit the pieces together in the current campaign. But against Yale, he seemed to recapture a little of the old magic, taking two out of three and losing the third on a narrow decision, so perhaps he is rounding into form just in time for the post-season competition.
The foil squad, for the major part of the season a big disappointment to Marion, could finally live up to pre-season press-clippings. Phillippe Bennett should find the drawn-out IFA competition more to his liking than the short three-bout matches that he has had often in similarly run meets. And Howie Weiss, who bolstered the Harvard foil contingent all season, is not likely to falter measurably either.
In epee Harvard doesn't seem to have enough experience to threaten seriously. Only Eugene White has been in this type of tournament before and his showing last year is not likely to encourage many Harvard backers.