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For the first time since 2009, the Harvard women’s fencing team earned a share of the Ivy League Championship trophy, thanks to strong performances from the saber squad and an epee group that held its own despite its relative lack of experience.
“It’s always been incredibly close, but this competition we were finally able to come through with a win in one of the most competitive leagues for fencing,” junior co-captain Liana Yamin said. “It was really a matter of mentality of being the underdog and coming out with a fighting spirit.”
On the men’s side, the chase to build upon a three-year Ivy Championship streak ended on Sunday afternoon. After entering day two of the round robin event with a 2-1 overall record, the men dropped two matches against Columbia and Penn, both by 16-11 bout scores.
Two consecutive seasons of second-place finishes had left the Crimson women’s squad hungry for the top spot, and that showed on Sunday afternoon.
“I think our key was our incredibly high energy and our ability to remain positive when things didn’t go our way,” junior co-captain Adrienne Jarocki said. “Even when we were losing, we just stayed positive and tried to win one bout at a time until we ended up winning [the championship].”
With a record of 4-1 and the Quakers standing in its way of a share of the Ivy title, the saber squad carried the team to the trophy. While the foil and epee groups both finished with bout records of 4-5 against Penn, the third weapon did not fail Harvard.
Jarocki and senior Aliya Itzkowitz both swept their three Quaker opponents—three times by 5-4 individual bout scores—and the youngest member of that trio, freshman Gabby Tartakovsky, had two bout wins of her own to carry the overall Crimson women to a 16-11 win.
The same three saber fencers were also the catalyst behind Harvard’s 3-0 start on Saturday, with wins over Yale, Princeton, and Brown. In those three matches, the saber women earned a 24-3 record.
“Adrienne really led the team in every round [and] every pressure situation,” Yamin said. “She always dominated each bout and set the tone…. [and] Aliya Itzkowitz was such a strong performer and a big part of why we were able to win against Princeton.”
Both Jarocki and Itzkowitz finished as first team All-Ivy members, with the former tallying a 17-1 record and the latter a 14-4 mark. Rounding out the women’s squad’s All-Ivy representation, Tartakovsky and epee fencer and freshman Shawn Wallace were second-team members thanks to double-digit bout wins.
“It’s just such an incredible feeling to win as a team,” Jarocki said. “There’s no better feeling than that.”
The title was the Harvard women’s fourth in program history.
After a Saturday that saw the Crimson collect victories over Yale and Brown by scores of 22-5 and 18-9, respectively, and a loss to Princeton by a 17-10 bout score, Harvard was still in position to run the table and earn at least a share of its fourth-straight title.
However, it would be the trio of Columbia, Penn, and Princeton that would come away from Ithaca, N.Y., with their hands on the trophy, with Harvard trailing behind in fourth.
An injury to co-captain Duncan O’Brien, who up until that point had a 5-4 bout record, did not help the Crimson’s cause. After a 5-4 defeat to Columbia’s Michael Costin in his 10th bout, O’Brien did not return to the strip the rest of the day, and the saber group finished with a 4-14 record on the final day of competition.
Senior Sasha Ryjik was Harvard’s lone men’s saber All-Ivy recipient, with his 9-5 record enough for a second-team mention. For the epee group, Nicolas Simko tied for fourth as an individual with a 9-6 record and also was an All-Ivy second-teamer.
Despite the 2-3 overall finish as a group, the Crimson foil squad was the strongest of the other Ivy competitors. The left-right-uppercut combo of junior Stephen Mageras, senior Jerry Chang, and co-captain Michael Woo each finished with double-digit wins for the championships, with the first two earning first-team All-Ivy honors and the third earning a second-team nod.
—Staff writer Caleb Y. Lee can be reached at email@example.com.
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