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Last night, in what was the final dress rehearsal before the Ivy League championship, the Harvard men’s and women’s fencing teams cut through the competition, grabbing three wins—and bragging rights—against Duke, Hunter, and Penn at the Eric Sollee Invite across town at MIT.
For the day, Harvard put on a fencing clinic, dominating its three opponents in all three swords competition—epee, sabre, and foil.
“We just out-fenced every other team with every weapon,” said Crimson sophomore sabre Thomas Kolasa. “We had fencers who generally don’t start still outclass the competition. Overall, it was a really good day.”
In its opening match, the No. 2 Crimson men easily defeated Hunter College, 22-5. After cruising towards victory against the Hawks, the Harvard men would follow up with a pair of victories over the Quakers, 16-11, and the No. 8 Blue Devils, 16-11.
The No. 3 women similarly coasted to victory with wins against Hunter, 21-6, Penn, 17-10, and Duke, 20-7.
Leading the Crimson with strong individual performances were sabre specialist Thomas Kolasa and freshman foil Alexandra Kiefer on the women’s and men’s sides, respectively. Kiefer, who went 9-0 on the day, will now head into the Ivy league championship without a single loss to her name throughout the entire season.
“[Alex] is quite determined to keep her record perfect, but she definitely stood out from everyone,” said Harvard coach Peter Brand with a chuckle. “Even though she had one close bout today, other than that, she pretty much crushed everyone today as she has all year.”
Kolasa, who suffered an ankle injury earlier in the week, led the Crimson men sabre squad to convincing victories against Duke and Hunter, while also posting a 8-1 record for the day.
“[Kolasa] just really sparked our entire sabre squad,” Brand said, “And despite his recent injury, he came out firing on all cylinders and got our other guys motivated and led us to a great day on the men’s side.”
One of the notable stories coming out of the MIT invitational was the rivalry between Duke sabre fencer and Olympic bronze medal winner Rebecca Ward and Crimson junior Caroline Vloka. In the 2009 NCAA championships, Ward bested Vloka to win the women’s national individual sabre title, with Vloka redeeming herself the following year to strip the title away. At yesterday’s meet, it was Vloka who walked away victorious once again.
With both the men’s and women’s teams rising in the national rankings, the day’s outcome proved quite promising for the Crimson as it hopes to carry some of yesterday’s momentum into Ivy League play and to the NCAA championships.
“It’s looking pretty good for us,” Brand said.” “I think that both the men and the women are definitely ready for next week, and I’m pretty optimistic going into the Ivy League Championships.”
Nevertheless, Brand did throw up some cautionary flags leading up to next week’s tournament.
“I think our toughest competition next week will be both the men and women from the Princeton side,” Brand said. “They are the defending champions [after all].”
“Right now, the Princeton women in particular look like the strongest team on paper,” Brand continued. “On the men’s side, things look a little even right now, but both Princeton teams will definitely be our toughest challenge.”
The fencing team will next see action on Feb. 12, when it squares off against conference opponents in the Ivy League Championships in Princeton, NJ.
—Staff writer Oluwatoni A. Campbell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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