It had been 46 days since either of the two fencing teams had stepped on a mat competitively prior to Saturday’s competition. Taking to the strips once again for the first time in a month and a half, Harvard traveled to Queens, N.Y., for the St. John’s Invitational, squaring off against some of the top ranked programs in the nation.
“Having been to the Invitational last year, I knew that it was going to be one of our more competitive tournaments this season, but I knew that the team was up for the challenge and excited to compete,” junior co-captain Sharon Ra said. “This meet is great preparation for Ivies, and allows us to compete at a very high level.”
The men’s squad (9-1) broke the long winter layoff in a dominating fashion, sweeping its opponents at the highly competitive meet. The women’s side (8-4), the second-lowest ranked team in attendance, won two matches and dropped three.
For the men’s side, the 5-0 performance shows a marked improvement from this point in the 2017 season, at which time the group was victorious in only a single matchup. The women matched their 2017 performance.
Junior co-captain, and 2016 United States Olympic team member, Eli Dershwitz headlined for the Crimson on Saturday. The junior tallied a 14-1 record on the afternoon, on top of a plus-38 touch differential. Against all five opponents, the only match in which Dershwitz did not defeat his opponent 3-0 was against No. 4 Penn State, in which he triumphed 2-1.
With Dershwitz, sabre won every match.
Against all opponents, No. 5 Harvard pulled the close matches, winning 14-13 against No. 8 St John’s, No. 2 Columbia, No. 2 Ohio State, and Penn State. It was only against the No. 1 squad in the country that the Crimson did better, pulling out the 15-12 victory against Notre Dame.
Boasting an 11-4 record on the day, sophomore Duncan Rheingans-Yoo lead the foil fencers to four victories and single loss. The Columbia, Md., native pulled a plus-nine touch differential, and 2-1 wins against all team excluding St. John’s. In his match against the host school, Rheingans-Yoo claimed a 3-0 win.
The epee trio proved most volatile on the afternoon, giving up four losses, and claiming their lone win against Notre Dame. Sophomore George Haglund highlighted the squad, taking a team second-best touch differential of plus-23, and registering a 9-3 record across the five matches.
“Last year our team faced many heartbreaking defeats at Saint John’s and Ivy League championships,” sophomore sabre Philippe Guy said. “These hardships made us work much harder in practice this year. I feel that the hard work and practice throughout the season truly paid off at this tournament where we were able to prevail in five extremely close matches. I think it’s a testament to our coaches, our captains, and the entire team that we were able to win at St. John’s this year.”
With No. 6 Harvard exactly replicating its 2017 performance, the opponents at the St. John’s Invitational proved as tough as they looked on paper.
The Crimson women’s squad first dismembered its host, No. 10 St. John’s. That 16-11 win was highlighted by a perfect performance on the part of the foil trio—junior Liana Henderson-Semel, co-captain MacKenzie Lawrence, and sophomore Natalie Yang. The group went 2-2 the rest of the afternoon.
“I was really proud of the intense energy we brought to each and every school we faced throughout the entirety of the Invitational,” Yang said. “The competitive atmosphere drove our resolve to fight for every touch every second of each bout”
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