February 1, 2008

Bulldogs to Host Ivy North Competition

Feb. 1, 2008

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Yale will host the first of two days of round robin fencing to determine the 2008 Ivy League Champion at Payne Whitney Gymnasium Sunday. The Bulldogs, who enter Ivy League competition with a 6-5 record, will take on Penn (10:00 a.m.), Harvard (11:30 a.m) and Brown (1:30 p.m.) this weekend. The Elis will then travel to Princeton to take on the host Tigers and Columbia on Feb. 10.

The next two weekends will not only yield an Ivy League champion but will also mark the conclusion of the dual meet season. Therefore, it will serve as the team's last tune-up before the IFA Championships on Feb. 24.

Junior epeeist Michael Pearce suggests that the next two weekends will define more than just the Ivy League standings though.

"The Ivy League tournament always defines the Ivy League team standings, but this year it will also prove how far we've come in terms of team chemistry and work ethic. All year we've spent time not only training hard but also spending time together outside of practice, and that is a big improvement over last season. Our team spirit is one of the main things that's giving us confidence going into the tournament," Pearce said.

And the Bulldogs will look to be firing on all cylinders come Sunday. The epee squad of Pearce and seniors, Gabe Billings and captain Steve Miller, is coming off a 5-4 victory over a very strong Ohio St. epee squad at last weekend's NYU Invitational.

Meanwhile, the foil squad of freshman Nathanial Botwinick and sophomore standouts Andrew Holbrook and John Gurrieri was the only Yale squad to score a victory against host NYU a week ago.

The Bulldog sabre squad, which consists of freshman Stephen Watty, junior Sebastian Cano-Besquet and senior Bradley Broadhead, will also look to capitalize on momentum gained with recent wins against Stevens and Wayne St.

But when asked which squad might make the difference, sophomore John Gurrieri warned, "We all need to be strong in order to do anything significant."

And the Ivy League remains one of the nation's foremost fencing conferences.

Yale's first Ivy opponent on Sunday will be Penn. The Quakers enter the weekend flying high with an 8-1 dual meet mark. They notched a 2-1 record at the Jan. 26 Penn St. Open. The team boasts two particularly strong individuals: senior captain, foilist Ron Berkowsky who is a three-time All-American, and sophomore saberist Andrew Bielen, who posted a 43-6 record as a freshman in 2007.

The Bulldogs will then take on traditional rival Harvard. The Crimson, 4-2 in dual meets this season, will look to overcome the loss of a talented group of seniors as well as the departure of 2007 NCAA Individual Champion epeeist Benji Ungar, who is currently training for the Olympics.

Finally, the Elis take on Brown at 1:30 p.m. Yale beat Brown, 21-6, during last year's round robin. The Bears stand at 7-7 on the season but have struggled of late, having gone 1-4 in a series of dual meets hosted by Boston College on Jan. 26. The foil squad is the strength of the Brown attack, with sophomore Adam Pantel leading the way. Pantel recorded a 10-2 overall record on Jan. 26.

The Bulldogs will face Princeton (9-2) and Columbia (2-3) on Feb. 10 in Princeton, N.J.

The Ivy League will be blogging live from Payne Whitney Gymnasium. Follow all of the action on the Ivy League fencing blog--ivyfencing.wordpress.com.

Report filed by Nicholas Thorne '08, Yale Sports Publicity