Fencing Begins Season With Strong Results

Leaping Lames
Robert F Worley

The Harvard women's fencing team, shown here in previous action, went 6-0 on the weekend.

With a long respite from collegiate fencing finally over, the Harvard men’s and women’s fencing teams kicked off their respective seasons with solid performances. After posting a 16-4 record in 2013-2014 and taking fifth at the NCAA National Championships, the women notched their 35th straight victory at the Malkin Athletic Center against Tufts on Friday.

Led by senior Emma Vaggo’s 15-0 bout record on the day, the Crimson women (6-0) continued their undefeated season with five more wins at the Tradition Tournament on Sunday in Fairfield, Conn.

On different strips, the Harvard men (3-1) brought home three team victories despite competing a man down in the épeé division. In his first appearance representing the Crimson, freshman Eli Dershwitz notched a perfect 12-0 record against the sabré competition.


As the Harvard men’s team found itself competing with only two fencers in épeé, the Crimson started each match by forfeiting three bouts in each first-to-14 contest.


Even so, Harvard fought its way to a respectable 3-1 finish for the tournament, including three straight wins over Princeton, Vassar, and New York University after losing to Penn State in the first match of the day.

“We were one man down, so the score doesn’t really reflect it as well as I think it could, but we really came together and fenced our best,” Dershwitz said. “We just knew that it was going to be hard...but after Penn State, we fought really hard for the rest of the day and for the rest of the bouts.”

For Dershwitz, the sabre fencer from Sherborn, Mass., the college stage may not have been the most daunting one he has been on in the past year. Currently ranked the No. 1 junior and No. 4 senior fencer, Dershwitz also won a gold medal at the 2014 USA Fencing National Championships in Division I.

With the addition of Dershwitz and fellow sabre freshman Eric Zhao, the Harvard men’s team is poised to improve upon its 12-6 record and fifth place team finish at the 2014 NCAA National Team Tournament.


Another season, another strong start for coach Peter Brand’s group of fencers, who swept the Tradition Tournament competition for the second straight year.

“Starting off the same way as last year is really encouraging,” sophomore foilist Liana Yamin said. “I think we went in with the same attitude [of] doing what we know to do—supporting each other and cheering each other on because that’s where we get our best fencing from.”

Going undefeated in her three bouts against Tufts got some momentum going for senior épeé fencer Emma Vaggo, who calmly picked up 15 more victories to continue her perfect season. Across the board, too, the Crimson had great days against the five other schools—host Sacred Heart, Temple, New York University, Penn State, and Vassar.

The win over the Nittany Lions was especially uplifting for Harvard, after the Crimson women saw Penn State lift the team trophy at the 2014 NCAA National Championships. With Sunday’s victory, Harvard has now taken three straight regular season head-to-head matchups and is catching up in the all-time matchup, which the Nittany Lions lead, 10-8, after this year’s defeat.

“We have quite a big rivalry with [Penn State], and it’s always great to be able to pull off a win as a team,” junior Aliya Itzkowitz said. “As a team, we maintained our focus throughout, and that was something I was trying to do too because it’s easy to lose focus for one bout.”


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