After Crimson captain Nancy Cooper dropped the first touch of the final bout in the Harvard women's fencing team's meet with Brandeis in Waltham last night, she needed to capture five straight points to give Harvard a one touch decision. Cooper garnered the fifth with ten seconds left on the clock.
Going into the crucial final duel, Brandeis led 8-7 in bouts and 54-51 on touches. Thus, Cooper needed to vanquish the Judges' Didi Mejias by four for Harvard to win.
After Mejias gathered the first touch on a high lunge which Cooper parried too late the Brandeis fencers stood at the side advising their teammate to "relax, wait, bide your time," in an effort to run out the clock.
Brandeis's patient strategy seemed to be working for two and a half minutes as Cooper refused to come forward and appeared to be accepting her own and her team's patient death.
Then, seconds before the one minute warning Cooper awoke with a bang. She tied the bout with a straight-in attack, then moved ahead 2-1 on a low lunge with 46 seconds left. Eight seconds later, Cooper made it 3-1, by beating Mejias's blade down and poking her unprotected belly, and only two seconds after that the score became 4-1 on another Cooper beat attack.
Thirty-six seconds left, Brandeis up 8-7 in bouts, Harvard leading the last bout 4-1, the meet tied 55-55 in touches. Thirty seconds left, 25...20...15...10.... Cooper beats Mejias's blade down, lunges forward, touches her in the underarm. Harvard takes the match by one touch, the Harvard fencers stream onto the strip cheering frantically, joy abounds...
The Crimson should never really have let the match get as close as it did. They led 6-2 early on as Debbie Sze and Kathy Lowry both swept past their first two opponents, and Cooper and Leslie Feder split their first two bouts.
Then, due in part to a scheduling mix-up, but also in part to poor Crimson fencing against a Brandeis team much worse than the Judges' 1977 second-place New England Championship squad, Harvard began to fall apart. Lowry Sze, Feder and Cooper, in that order, lost four straight bouts, and suddenly the score was tied 6-6.
Then, after Sze pushed Harvard out in front again, Lowry--hampered by an aggravated knee injury--and Feder lost and lost badly by scores 5-2 and 5-0. That left the match up to Cooper and her last-second heroics.
The victory over the Judges gives the Crimson a 9-1 season record entering the March 12 New England Championships in which they will vie against Dartmouth, University of Maine and Yale for top honors.