NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The Yale men's fencing team has spent the last couple of months diligently training and preparing for the 2010-2011 season. The Elis will have an opportunity to show off that hard work when they kick off their season this weekend at the Penn State Open, in State College, Pa. Having added four new freshman to a revamped epee squad, the Bulldogs are looking to take the Ivy League by storm and compete for a shot at the Ivy League Championship.
Last season, led by a powerful foil squad, the Bulldogs finished with an 11-2 dual-meet record—a team record in wins. However, following their impressive regular season, the Elis met with disappointment during the two-day Ivy League Championships. During the first day of competition, hosted by Cornell in Ithaca, N.Y., Yale compiled a 2-2 record. The Bulldogs defeated Columbia and Penn, but lost to Harvard and Princeton. The loss to Princeton was particularly draining because the two squads traded bouts until the very end. Ultimately Princeton won a squeaker by a score of 14-13, en route to a perfect record and the Ivy League Championships. In the second day of competition, hosted by Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Penn., Yale lost to Brown and finished with an overall record of 2-3—good for fourth in the Ivy League.
This year, the Bulldogs will be missing the leadership of several graduated seniors: former captain and foilist Andrew Holbrook, foilist and NCAA Championship qualifier John Gurrieri, and epeeist and team manager Thomas Bell. Luckily, Yale's current team is in a great position to compensate for the loss.
"We're working hard to be better than last year," said captain Jonathan Holbrook, "and we think its definitely possible."
The formidable foil squad was very deep last year and with Holbrook, senior Nathaniel Botwinick and junior Shiv Kachru, the squad should be able to continue without missing a beat. Botwinick took sixth at the National Championships and third at the North American Cup last year. Holbrook qualified for the National Championships and Kachru qualified for the Regional Championships.
Meanwhile, the epee squad has received a huge boost with the addition of four freshman. Pearson Miller, Benjamin Mappin-Kasirer, Cornelius Saunders, and Peter Cohen will be joining junior Alexander Cohen, junior Adrian Godoy, junior Bo Qu and sophomore Nicholas Wan. The new additions should add depth and quality to an epee squad that was in a state of rebuilding after the graduation of Michael Pearce two years ago.
Finally, the foil squad which included NCAA Championship qualifier Colin Mills, will be comprised of all the same fencers. However, because three of the four saberists were freshmen last year, the Bulldogs expect the added year of experience to pay dividends this season.
This weekend, the team will compete in an individual tournament in the Penn State Open. It will be used as an opportunity for final tune-ups and live competition practice before the team begins its dual-meet season in earnest.
Looking ahead to the season ahead, Holbrook is optimistic.
"We want to develop our epee squad from a group of individuals to a cohesive team," he noted. "If we can do that, then we have a legitimate shot at the Ivy Championship."
Report By Arsi Sefaj '11, Yale Sports Publicity