Harvard Dominates in Home-Opening Meets

Melissa Schellberg

Freshman Valentin Staller continued his impressive fall campaign for the Crimson, notching a 3-0 night against Sacred Heart. The Crimson as a whole dominated the Pioneers, with the men winning 17-10 and the women posting a 23-4 victory in addition to a 22

A complete team effort led the Harvard men’s and women’s fencing squads to impressive victories Friday night at the Malkin Athletic Center, as the Crimson opened up the dual meet portion of its schedule and competed as teams for the first time this season.

The women’s team (2-0) was led by a strong performance from its foil squad and its many freshmen in cruising to victory over Sacred Heart, 23-4, and then taking down Tufts, 22-5.

The men’s team, competing without its top epee fencer and captain Benji Ungar and sophomore foil fencer Hao Meng, who were both out with injuries, defeated Sacred Heart 17-10 with many of its freshmen also performing well.

“On the women’s side, we showed our strength with the foil squad,” Harvard coach Peter Brand said. “On the men’s side, our result against Sacred Heart was as I anticipated.”

The women defeated the Jumbos from Tufts for the seventh consecutive season with scores of 7-2 in sabre, 9-0 in foil, and 6-3 in epee. Harvard’s tallies against the Sacred Heart women were 6-3 in sabre, 9-0 in foil, and 8-1 in epee. In total, the Crimson had six women go undefeated in the two meets.

Co-captain Emily Cross, junior Anna Podolsky, and freshman Shelby MacLeod jumped on their opponents early and closed out their matches well. The foil squad will be looked to throughout the season to help the Crimson continue its winning ways.

“The foil squad has three top notch fencers with extensive national and international experience,” Brand said. “And it showed with all three winning their six matches.”

Harvard’s women epee fencers were led by freshman Noam Mills and senior Lisa Vastola, who each went 3-0 against the Pioneers.

“Our epee squad has a little more depth than last year with the addition of Noam, and Lisa’s hard work over the past two years has been paying off,” Brand said.

Freshman Caroline Vloka was the other fencer to go undefeated, as she finished 3-0 in the sabre against Sacred Heart. The sabre squad also received a strong effort from freshman Hayley Levitt, who rebounded from an opening round defeat to finish 2-1 against the Pioneers. Sophomore Yunsoo Kim also won her first career match in the sabre and finished 5-1, a great sign for a relatively inexperienced group.

“Our sabre squad is the least balanced,” Brand said. “Caroline is a world class fencer having won a silver and a gold medal at previous world junior championships, but Hayley still needs more experience before she can start performing consistently. The sabre squad will have the toughest time as we face the stronger teams later in the season.”

“We performed at a top level in both our matches. We have a freshman-heavy team, and it was great to see them really step up,” Cross said. “These matches helped us get back in the competitive mode and get our rhythm back in learning how to fence competitively.”

The Harvard men finished their only dual meet of the night against Sacred Heart with scores of 6-3 in sabre, 5-4 in foil, and 6-3 in epee.

The Crimson was led by freshman Valentin Staller, who won all three of his matches against the Pioneers, including a close victory over the defending U.S. Junior champion, Marty Williams, in sabre.

“Valentin is one of the top junior sabre fencers in the country,” Brand said. “Valentin is a sensational athlete with a great love of fencing—not only am I his coach, but I consider myself a fan.”

Staller got off to a strong start in the bout, scoring the first three touches. However, after a timeout, Williams responded and tied up the match at three. The pair then exchanged touches to even the score at 4-4. Staller then scored the deciding touch after a long exchange with Williams.

“My bout with Marty was a good experience, because I was able to fence a really good fencer in my first college meet,” Staller said. “I think it will ultimately help me in my transition to collegiate fencing.”

Harvard’s epee fencers were led by freshman James Hawrot and junior Karl Harmenberg, who both went undefeated.

The Crimson foil squad pulled out a close 5-4 victory with the help of co-captain Kai Itameri-Kinter, who was 3-0 in his matches.

Overall, the Harvard men competed well with two of their best watching from beside the mat.

“I thought the team did great, considering the injuries we have right now,” Staller said. “It just shows how deep our team is, and I feel it was a good start to the season and will help us figure out what we need to work on most for the future.”