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Over the weekend, the Harvard men’s and women’s fencing teams traveled to Philadelphia to compete in the Ivy League Round Robins, the annual tournament that determines team championships for the Ancient Eight schools.
Neither of the Crimson squads returned to Cambridge with an Ivy title, however. That result marked a special disappointment for the women’s team, which earned a share of last year’s title after a 5-1 performance.
In 2016, the Harvard women’s fencing squad finished in a three-way tie for the league title. That result seemed to bode well for 2017, but this year’s trip to Penn’s Tse Ping & Cheng Cheung Ling Sports Center hardly yielded the same success.
Instead, the Ivy Round Robins ended in disappointment for the No. 7 Crimson, who completed the two-day event with a team record of 3-3, alone at the middle of the seven-school field.
“We had hopes to repeat the awesome performance we had last year,” Yamin said. “The Ivy League is such a competitive group...composed of Olympians, national champions, [and] world team members…. The first day didn’t have a great start, and it was tough to gain the momentum back.”
Early Saturday competition saw Harvard dig into a quick 0-2 team record hole, with defeats at the hands of eventual champion Princeton, by a 17-10 count, and the third-place finisher Quakers, by a 15-12 tally.
The Tigers, which swept away the Ivy competition with a 6-0 team record over the weekend, beat their Crimson counterparts across all three weapons, and even the Harvard saber group led by co-captain Adrienee Jarocki fell by a 5-4 count. Over the Crimson’s other five matches, the saber group had a winning record in each of them.
Similar to previous years, Jarocki dominated her Ivy League opponents, finishing with 15 bout victories, which was the third most across all weapons for both men and women. Her plus-44 touch indicator was at the top of the women’s saber pack as well.
“Even though the overall result wasn’t what we wanted, we had a lot of strong individual performances...such as Adrienne’s,” Yamin said.
Freshman Marta Lasota and sophomore Gabby Tartakovsky finished tied for fourth and eighth with 13 and 11 bout victories, respectively, in women’s saber.
Beyond the saber trio, Harvard had mixed results, with the epee squad posting a team record below .500. However, after the first two defeats on Saturday, the Crimson completed the tournament with three victories against one loss to climb back to an even record.
Coming off a fourth-place finish at the Ivy Round Robins in 2016, Harvard had high expectations for success this winter, but the team found itself trending backwards, posting a 1-4 team record and a fifth-place result.
However, looking deeper into the results reveals a team that came within a few bouts of challenging Columbia, Penn, and Princeton at the top of the pack.
Losses to the Tigers, Lions, and Yale each came by 14-13 bout scores, with the Crimson’s saber and foil trios emerging with winning records all three times, despite the team losses. The epee group, however, struggled in the three nail-biter defeats, posting 2-7 records each time.
“Had we flipped those [three 14-13 defeats], we would have won a share of the Ivy League title,” junior co-captain Eric Zhao said. “We were right, right in the thick of things…. Beyond that, this was a great experience…. We’re a really young team, and this puts us in a really good position for next year.”
From the individual perspective, Harvard sophomore Eli Dershwitz and freshman George Haglund took the top spots in their respective saber and foil pools. Dershwitz posted a plus-44 touch indicator and a 14-1 record, while Haglund rode a plus-25 touch indicator to a 12-3 mark.
“I have faith that anyone on our team can perform on any given weekend, and this was the weekend for George,” Zhao said. “He showed a lot of maturity that some might not have expected but I certainly did…. He kept his nerve in really close situations and bouts to give him first in his weapon.”
—Caleb Y. Lee can be reached at email@example.com.
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