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The Harvard men's and women's fencing teams each had notable performances on Sunday at the NCAA Northeast Regional Championships in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
For the Crimson women’s fencing team (18-5), junior Noam Mills took first in the epee while freshman Alexandra Keifer won the foil.
With these wins, Mills and Keifer look poised to qualify for the NCAA championships, which will be held in Columbus, Ohio on March 24. Although competitors in the national championships will not be announced officially until later today, Harvard expects to be well-represented.
“We are anticipating that we will have 11 qualify,” Crimson coach Peter Brand said. “And considering the field this year, that may get us into a position to finish in the top three. Of course, schools can send a maximum of 12 competitors, but looking at the fill this year, there will be very few other schools out there with [even] 11 qualifying.”
Mills began the day ranked third in the epee, but she jumped into competition hot, going 5-for-6 in her first round of pool play. Her streak continued in the second round where she defeated six straight opponents, moving her up to second in the rankings behind Zsophia Fath of St. John’s University. Yet in the final round of pool play, Mills edged out Fath by winning 9-of-11 in comparison to Fath’s eight.
Meanwhile, Keifer, who came in ranked first, dominated the foil competition from start to finish, only losing two bouts—one in her second round and one in the final—ending the day with a .909 victory-to-bout ratio.
“I think it’s hard to set such a high standard [your freshman year]” Keifer said. “But I’m excited to keep improving. And I want to do better at the Ivy’s—we only got third this year—and I’m hoping that sometime in the next three years, we can make that a first.”
The women struggled in the sabre with their top finisher, junior Hayley Levitt, coming in 11th on the day.
The Harvard men’s team (19-2) had representation in the top three of every class.
Sophomore Tommaso di Robilant took third in the foil after being originally ranked 12th in the class. He climbed to fourth place after the first two rounds of pool play, going 5-for-6 and then 4-for-6. In the third and final rounds, he won eight out of 11 bouts, knocking New York University’s Philip Jamesson down to sixth place to claim third for the Crimson.
“As usual, I had a slow start,” di Robilant said. “But I picked it up in the second round. Unfortunately I had to fight against my teammates in that round…but we all came out of it pretty good. Thankfully, I managed to make it to the final round.”
In the epee, freshman Michael Raynis also took third place in the competition, despite his original fourth-place ranking behind the Red Storm’s power trio of Nicholas Vomero, Marat Isrealian, and Adam Watson. Raynis also came out slow, and a rough first round demoted him to 14th. But he bounced back with six straight victories in the third round to eventually edge out Watson for third place behind Vomero and Israelian.
The men continued their success in the sabre, sweeping three of the top-four spots. Although they relinquished first place to St. John’s Daryl Homer, Harvard’s junior Valentin Staller, sophomore Thomas Kolasa and freshman Eric Arzoian blocked out all other Red Storm threats.
In the first round, both Kolasa and Staller were perfect—5-for-5 and 6-for-6, respectively—while Arzoian only dropped one. Arzoian also only lost one in the second, while Kolasa and Staller both went 4-for-6. In the final round of play, Arzoian and Kolasa both won seven out of 11 bouts, while Staller climbed to his third-place finish, going 8-of-11.
“The thing about this tournament is it’s a very long and exhausting day,” di Robilant said. “The final round [11 bouts] was long and tough.”
“We pretty much did what we anticipated we’d do,” Brand said. “And we were prepared both physically and emotionally for this tournament. We have a good practice and conditioning schedule throughout the year, and both the men and the women were able to keep pace. Overall, I’m very happy with the results.”
The scoring for men’s and women’s fencing is based on a co-gender system, meaning that both Crimson teams will be fighting together later this month.
“I know everyone’s really excited,” Keifer said. “We got fifth last year, and I know we can do better.”
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