Senior Caroline Vloka leads her team into the Ivy League championship looking to earn Harvard's fourth Ancient Eight title. (Gil Talbot)
The Harvard men's and women's fencing teams head to New Haven, Conn. for the 2012 Ivy League Championships Saturday and Sunday.
Rank and File
On Jan. 18 the NCAA posted its 2012 men's and women's fencing rankings. The Harvard men came in at No. 3 in the poll while the women ranked at No. 7. In the men's poll the Crimson is the second-ranked Ivy League team with Princeton taking the No. 2 spot, meanwhile the situation is almost identical in the women's poll as the Crimson women are the second-ranked Ancient Eight team with Princeton taking the No. 2 spot.
Kaneshige With It
Freshman Brian Kaneshige was one of the Crimson's more impressive fencers in the St. John's Invitational as he recorded the team's best record in the foil grouping at 10-5 and tied for the team lead at the end of the weekend.
While the St. Jon's Invitational didn't go as planned for both the men's and women's squads there was one result that was a big confidence boost for the Harvard women's team. In the first match of the afternoon the Crimson defeated No. 1 ranked Penn State, edging the Nittany Lions 14-13. Harvard ended the day with another big win against a tough St. John's team defeating the No. 6 Red Storm 14-13. The women's team went 2-3 but can look back on its experiences in two successful bouts as it moves forward with the fencing season.
The No. 3 men's squad and No. 7 women's team enter the Ivy League tournament coming off a disappointing St. John's invitational after the men went 1-4 and the women went 2-3. Overall though both teams have had successful campaigns with the men accruing a 5-5 record and the women an 8-4 mark.
The women's fencers had gone undefeated as a team until the St. John's open, defeating Temple (16-11), North Carolina (19-8), New York (21-6), Sacred Heart (22-5), Vassar (22-5) and Tufts 22-4). Harvard has received strong play from its top competitors, senior Caroline Vloka and sophomore Alexandra Kiefer but have also been buoyed by the addition of freshman Emma Vaggo. The Kullavik, Sweeden, native has been one of the strongest in the Crimson's epee field, most recently leading the division, going 11-4 which was tied for Harvard's best record during the meet.
The Harvard men are looking to duplicate last year's Ivy Title success as they registered its first Ancient Eight championship since 2006. As far as this year goes, the have men enjoyed similar success early in this campaign winning four out of five dual matches, with its lone loss coming to No. 1 Penn State. The men defeated Vassar (21-6), North Carolina (19-8), New York (21-6) and Sacred Heart (17-10). Like the women's team, the men have seen good production from the usual suspects in Valentine Staller, Ben Cohen and Michael Raynis, and have also received production from freshmen Brian Kanshige and Pergrine Badger. Badger won bronze at the Penn State open to start the season and Kaneshige was one of the Crimson's most impressive fencers at the team's last tournament, the St. John's Open, going 10-5 in five dual matches.
The Tigers enter the competition as the defending champions and having won two-straight Ivy League championships (2010-2011). It was the first time that Princeton won back-to-back championships since the 2000-2001 seasons. No. 2 Princeton enter the weekend having gone 13-3 in dual matches during the season and are coming off a 9-2 mark in the Northwestern Duals defeating UC San Diego, FDU, Northwestern, Wayne State, North Carolina, Stanford, Caltech, Detroit and Temple.
The Bears are looking for their first Ivy championship in the school's history after it went 1-5 in the round-robin tournament last season. Brown has looked impressive in two tournament dual-meets defeating Tufts, Vassar, Dartmouth, Brandeis, Smith and MIT at the Northeastern Fencing Conference meet No. 2. Most recently they posted wins over New York University, Johns Hopkins and Haverford at the Eric Sollee Invitational. One of the team's best fencers Kathryn Hawrot, who went 13-0 at the NFC No. 2 and 7-0 at the Eric Sollee Invite is the sister of Harvard men's fencing captain, James Hawrot.
The Lions enter the Ivy League championships trying to attain the Ancient Eight title for the first time since 2008. Columbia enjoyed back-to-back championships in 2007 and 2008. They have had a successful season so far going 8-5 and registering big wins over No. 1 Penn State and No. 3 Notre Dame. Most recently the Lions recorded victories over Northwestern (14-13), Notre Dame (15-12), and Wayne State (21-6).
Like Brown, the Big Red is also searching for its first Ancient Eight championship in program history. Cornell went 2-4 in last year's Ivy League tournament and has seen considerable success this season, setting the all-time wins record, registering 14 this season. Most recently the Big Red went 3-2 at the Philidelphia Invitational, recording wins over Johns Hopkins University (20-7), NJIT (24-3), and Fairleigh Dickinson University (21-6).
The Quakers are trying to return to greatness this year, looking to reel in its 11th Ivy title. When women's fencing began in the Ivy League in 1982, Penn went on a run of six-straight championships beginning in 1983-88. The Quakers last Ancient Eight title came in 2004. Last season Penn went 3-3 in the Ivy League championship and has had a successful campaign to this point in 2012, accruing a 11-4 record. Last time out, Penn defeated Tufts, Brandeis, MIT, and NYU at the Eric Sollee Invitational.
The Bulldogs are searching for their seventh Ivy title in program history with their last one coming in 2002. Yale has fallen under some hard times as they went 0-6 at the tournament last year and Yale has struggled this season accruing a 6-7 record. It had some positive results its last time out beating Vassar and Drew, on Feb. 4.