The women’s fencing team capped off a record-breaking season with a disappointing performance in the Ivy League Championships on Sunday. The Red (14-10, 0-6 Ivy League) had high expectations for the tournament, but failed to see them through.
“Coach is pretty upset, obviously,” said sophomore foilist April Whitney. “We talked about it briefly with the team, but [soon] we are having a team meeting and talking about what happened. This weekend was pretty shocking for us.”
The Red started the tournament against No. 2 ranked Princeton (18-3, 6-0) and Columbia (8-6, 5-1) who finished first and second in the tournament respectively. The Red fell to the Tigers 23-4, and to the Lions, 21-6.
It was these intense matches that that led to mental fatigue and close losses against Brown, 14-13, and Yale, 16-11, according to junior saberist Beverly Yang.
“I think what happened was that the first two teams we fenced were Princeton and Columbia — who came out ranked first and second — and that kind of took most of our energy,” she said. “It was like we used all of our aggression against them. So, when we got to Brown and Yale at the end of the day, we weren’t mentally prepared as well as we should have been. If we had fenced them first, it may have been different.”
The Red then lost to Penn, 17-10, and Harvard, 18-9, to finish out the tournament.
“I honestly don’t think that we fenced poorly or had any gaps,” Yang said. “We were fencing well, it was just as if they were almost one step ahead of us.”
Although the Red came in seventh at the Ivy League championships, there were individual fencers who showed solid performances, such as Whitney, the foilist. Whitney finished with a 9-7 record and finished eigth overall. Her biggest win came against Princeton’s freshman foil, Ambika Singh.
Whitney handed Singh her only loss of the tournament when she beat her 5-4. Singh would go on to finish the tournament 17-1 and was voted the tournament’s most outstanding performer and most outstanding rookie by the leagues coaches.
Yang went 9-9 during the tournament and placed in 10th individually for saber.
“I went 9-9 and finished 10th, which I am personally very satisfied with,” Yang said. “It was a huge improvement for me from last year when I went 6-12.”
The next obstacle that the fencers will face will not be as a team, but rather the individual portion of NCAA competition.
“Despite our defeats at the tournament, we always qualify the maximum number of fencers to participate in the regional qualifier for the NCAAs,” Whitney said. “That hasn’t changed this year; we still are qualifying the maximum.”
To prepare for the tournament, Yang feels that the most important thing to do is for to reflect on past performances to see what works and does not and capitalize that going forward.
“First we need to sit down with our respective weapons and talk about the general tactics that worked,” she said. “You find that once you are in a competition you learn so much more than [you learn] during practice because all of those skills you are practicing are being applied. I think what each person needs to do is to reflect on themselves, find what works for them, and remember that. Sometimes that is the hardest part, being able to remember what you did that worked and what didn’t that day and actually making a note of it and remembering to use that again to your advantage.”
This reflection on past performance is especially important because the team will see many of the same opponents in the NCAA individual tournament.
“When we go to regionals, it is a lot of the same fencers,” Yang said. “Harvard and Columbia are in our conference but we will see them all again.”
Although the Red did not finish the season on a high note, the team still finished the season with a record number of wins in a season, at 14. They had reached 13 wins five times before in program history but had never crossed the threshold until this year.
The Red is continuing to look to the future and the NCAAs and hopes to continue improving on the program’s success.
“We came out of this tournament with a huge learning curve,” Yang said. “We obtained more experience and we still have a month until regionals and we are really going to use it to prepare.”
Original Author: Zach Gayner