On a rainy Sunday, No. 5 Harvard men’s and No. 6 women’s fencing returned to Cambridge, Mass. to host its only home matches of their 2017-18 seasons. Visiting the Crimson was New York University, facing Harvard for the second time this season. Last December, in the last meeting between the two teams, Harvard left with a win for the women’s and a loss for the men’s.
In the Malkin Athletic Center on Sunday, all that could be heard was the roar of the athletes cheering on their teammates, palpable energy that translated into wins for both the women’s and men’s teams.
Coming off of a strong sweep at St. John’s Invitational on Jan. 20, the team was in high spirits after five wins against Notre Dame, Columbia, Ohio State, St. John’s, and Penn State. There was one notable absence from the men’s roster this match—Olympian Eli Dershwitz. The junior co-captain who led the Harvard record in sabre was busy winning his second international gold medal this year in the sabre category at the Senior World Cup Italy after defeating the top three sabre fencers in the world.
As the first bouts began, the Crimson looked to draw first blood with aggressive attacks within the first seconds of each bout. The men’s foil squad had the smoother afternoon or the three categories, finishing with a 6-3 record to help guide the full team to a tight victory. The sabre squad also pushed hard for a Harvard win with senior Erwin Cai’s 2-1 record, senior co-captain Eric Zhao’s 2-1 record, as well as sophomore Phillipe Guy securing a 5-4 win in this bout on top of a 5-4 win in sabre against the Bobcats. NYU, however, came out on top in the epee category, with a 6-3 win over Harvard, despite freshman Charles Horowitz scoring a 2-1 record and a plus-two touch differential.
“The biggest takeaway is that supporting your team is equal to working your hardest,” Cai said.
With only two bouts remaining in the match, tensions were high for both teams. The final epee bout and sabre bout occurred simultaneously in the gym with both mats surrounded by players shouting encouragement for their teammates.
Finally, Horowitz landed the winning hit, ending the bout with a 5-3 score and giving Harvard the overall win. The final scoreline was a 14-13 win for the Crimson after Cai was unable to come back to win his final bout in the sabre category. The win adds to Harvard’s strong 10-1 season.
“The single most important thing in these types of matches is that difference in skill accounts only for so much,” junior Milo Davidson said. “It’s really about who has more energy and who truly wants it more. The cheering from the team helps that.”
At the St. John’s Invitational on January 20th, the Crimson fought for a 2-3 tournament record. The team earned wins against Ohio State and St. John’s, but was unable to overpower the top three teams in the country, Notre Dame, Columbia, and Penn State.
Harvard came into Sunday’s event 8-4 overall, ranked sixth in the nation and looking to have a confident win at home. The first sabre bout opened with sophomore Marta Lasota. The Silver Spring, Md., native quickly jumped out to a 3-0 lead against junior Jacqueline Tubbs before losing the fast-paced bout 5-3.
The Crimson moved to a 9-4 record for the season led by freshman Saanchi Kukadia, junior Sharon Ra, and junior Shawn Wallace who each tallied a 3-0 record in the epee category to record a 9-0 steamroll over the Bobcats.
However, the women’s sabre squad had a much tougher battle, fighting through to win 5-4 against NYU with junior Gabrielle Tartakovsky winning all three of her bouts along with Lasota completing a 2-1 record. In the foil category, the team had a shakier start, but quickly gained steam to dominate the Bobcats 7-2 with senior co-captain MacKenzie Lawrence and junior Liana Henderson-Semel both shutting out NYU with a 3-0 record each.
—Staff writer Kim Arango can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.