Freshman Alexandra Kiefer became Harvard's third individual women's national champion Sunday (Harvard Athletic Communications).
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Freshman Alexandra Kiefer ended her rookie season Sunday the same way she started it – standing at the highest point on the podium. Kiefer defeated Princeton's Eve Levin, 15-7, on the final day of the 2011 NCAA Fencing Championship to claim the women's foil individual title.
Kiefer marched through the final portion of the round-robin competition, totaling 18 wins over the two days with 103 recorded touches and a +42 scoring index, to enter the medal round as the No. 2 seed behind Penn State's Doris Willette. Kiefer faced Evgeniya Kirpicheva of St. John's in the semifinal and earned a tight, 15-12 victory to advance to the championship bout. Willette, a two-time NCAA champion and 2008 Olympian, was upset by Levin in the semifinal by the same score, 15-12, setting up the Kiefer-Levin showdown.
In the final, Kiefer jumped out to a big lead over Levin and never looked back, leading 10-4 at one point before scoring the clinching touch with just 14 seconds left on the clock. The individual championship is the third all-time for Harvard women's fencing, second in a row after Caroline Vloka's title in women's sabre last season, and second in the foil event, following Emily Cross' NCAA foil win in 2005.
Junior Noam Mills looked to be the clear favorite in the women's epee medal round after earning the No. 1 seed with 21 victories during round-robin competition, two more than the next competitor, scoring 103 touches and posting a +53 scoring index, all top marks in the field.
Mills cruised by Penn State's Margherita Guzzi Vincenti in the semifinal, a rematch of last season's championship bout, by a score of 15-8 to match up with Courtney Hurley of Notre Dame in the final.
Neither fencer could gain a considerable advantage in the championship, as strategy dominated the bout and the clock. In the end, Hurley would hold on for the win with an 8-7 edge as time ran out, giving Mills her third consecutive runner-up finish at the NCAA Championship.
Vloka went to Columbus as the defending women's sabre national champion from 2010 and had a chance to win it again Sunday as she entered the medal round as a No. 3 seed with 19 wins and a +50 scoring index in the round-robin format. The semifinal matchup of Vloka and Duke's Rebecca Ward would ensure the final would not involve both athletes for the first time since 2008. Vloka defeated Ward last season for the title and Ward was the victor in 2009. Sunday, Ward again got the upperhand on her rival, defeating Vloka, 15-11, en route to her second national title.
Kiefer, Mills and Vloka all earned All-American honors for their performances. It was the third such award for Mills and Vloka, neither of whom have finished lower than second at the national championship.
Sophomore Katherine Chou finished 15th in the foil event at her first trip to the national championship. Chou totaled 10 wins over the two-day round-robin competition. Sophomore Felicia Sun finished 23rd in the women's epee at her second NCAA Championship with four wins and 68 touches recorded.
Harvard wound up sixth in the team standings out of 30 programs represented at the championship. The Crimson gathered 137 points over the four days of men's and women's competition. Notre Dame won its fourth combined championship and first since 2005, the season before Harvard won its NCAA title in 2006.