Like scotch and wisdom, the Harvard fencing team seems to have only improved with age.
Nearly two years ago, Crimson coach Peter Brand expressed concern with the lack of depth on both his men’s and women’s squads following the graduation of star fencers Emily Cross ’09, Kai Itameri-Kinter ’09, and Benji Ungar ’09.
In response, he redoubled his recruitment efforts, leading to a very young and very inexperienced team in the 2009-2010 season. In fact, 19 of the 29 fencers were either freshmen or sophomores.
But in spite the youth of the Harvard fencing team as a whole, its results over the past two years continue to serve as a testament to its strength and growth as a team.
The Crimson women’s squad opened the season with a bang at the Garret Penn State Invitational, earning two gold medals through the efforts of freshman Alexandra Kiefer and junior Caroline Vloka in the foil and sabre, respectively.
With the regular season in full motion, the Harvard women then strung together a six-match winning streak during which the Crimson took down the defending national champion Penn State in addition to Tufts, North Carolina, Sacred Heart, NYU, and Vassar.
The run came to an end at the St. John’s Super Cup. But even after the loss, the Crimson didn’t slow its early-season pace, sweeping the competition at the Eric Sollee Invitational, 3-0, against Hunter College, Duke and Penn. In its next tournament, Harvard finished third in the Ivy League conference event.
For junior co-captain Caroline Vloka, the ability of the women’s squad to maintain its dominant form throughout the season came from the team dynamic.
“I think it mostly came from our team’s chemistry with our new freshmen this year,” Vloka said. “They brought a lot of new energy and a spark that really inspired everyone on the team to bond and work together as a team throughout the season.”
The women concluded the Ivy League Championships with a 4-2 record, defeating Penn, Cornell, Brown, and Yale, but falling against Princeton and Columbia.
Leading the women’s squad in the Ivy League tournament were Vloka and Kiefer, who both earned first-team All-Ivy League honors for their performances in the saber and foil, respectively.
The team made the postseason after qualifying five fencers for the NCAA Regional. The squad put together a number of strong performances—none stronger than national champion Kiefer, who defeated Eve Levin of Princeton to take the collegiate title.
Junior Noam Mills reached the finals of the epee competition but fell to Notre Dame’s Courtney Huxley, placing second for the third year in a row.
For the men’s squad, the season was similarly marked with success. The team opened the year at the Garret Penn State Open with six top-10 finishes and two medals in three weapons. This depth would prove vital for the men, as Harvard staged an 11-2 run leading up to the Ivy League Championship.
“On the men’s side this past season, we had a very deep team,” Harvard coach Peter Brand said. “We don’t have the megastars that we find on the women’s side. But in terms of being able to win an Ivy League championship, I felt that our men were always in a better position to win the Ivy title because we had great fencers in all three positions.”