Sweeping Weekend, Harvard Eyes Ivies

The Harvard fencing team closed out its warm-up to the Ivy season with wins over Haverford, Yeshiva, and Duke yesterday at MIT. In the last meet before the two-week Ivy Championships, the women (14-1) put in a dominant performance, defeating the Fords 21-6, the Maccabees 25-2, and the Blue Devils 18-9. The men got back on track with victories of 25-2 over Yeshiva, 16-11 over Haverford, and 15-12 over Duke.

“It’s nice to have this meet to make sure we’re tuned up and ready to go,” co-captain Emily Cross said. “The guys fenced really well, it was a good confidence booster. So we’re definitely looking forward to next weekend, and we’re right in the place that we need to be.”

The foil led the way yet again for a women’s squad that has yet to disappoint. Cross, junior co-captain Arielle Pensler, freshman Shelby MacLeod, and junior Anna Podolsky lost just one bout on the day, and the four will need to continue to shine if the Crimson hopes to have any success against powerhouses like Columbia next weekend.

“Our team is definitely one of the stronger teams out there,” Cross said. “[Harvard coach Peter Brand has] been doing a great job recruiting. It’s good that we’re able to help out the team as much as we have been. Certainly we’re looking forward to a good Ivy match for the foil squad.”

“Our women’s foil squad is probably the overall best in the country,” Brand said. “We’ve defeated every top school except Notre Dame, but based on the record, I think we have the best foil squad in the country.”

The foil got some help from three other outstanding performances. The épée set the tone, with rookie Noam Mills and senior Maria Larsson posting undefeated afternoons. But no one was more exciting to watch than freshman Caroline Vloka. The heart of the sabre team, the rookie lost only one bout—to Rebecca Ward of Duke, the number one ranked fencer in the world, who won a bronze medal at the Beijing Olympics. Vloka had been up 4-2 in the bout before succumbing to a questionable final touch to lose 5-4.

The men got quite a bit of help from their ever-steady walk-ons against the Maccabees, including sophomores Wes Talcott and Nick Culbertson.

“My philosophy is that I strongly believe that the walk-ons and the ones that stick with us should have an opportunity to fence,” Brand said. “This is one of those days I thought we could afford to do that, and they presented themselves extremely well.”

Against the Blue Devils, and even against Haverford, things didn’t go quite so smoothly—it came down to the final two épée bouts against the Fords.

“We’ve been struggling, there’s no doubt about it,” Brand said. “We’re not as good as we were two, three years ago.”

Co-captain and épée fencer Benji Ungar continued his strong comeback from injury losing just once on the day, and co-captain and foil fencer Kai Itameri-Kinter posted the same mark.

“Kai is very resilient, very durable, and extremely dependable,” Brand said. “It’s his senior year, it’s going to be tough to lose him.”

Freshman Valentin Staller continued to shine for the sabre, but also got some unexpected help from senior Scott DiGiulio.

“The other starter that I think is coming out of his funk is Scott DiGiulio, who came on very strong,” Brand said. “He’s been struggling all year, and today was one of those days where it looks like he’s coming out of it and fencing as well as he can.”

—Staff writer Madeleine I. Shapiro can be reached at