Fencing Quest for National Championship Begins Thursday

Fencing Quest for National Championship Begins Thursday

The Harvard fencing program competes for the NCAA Championship this week in San Antonio, Texas (photo courtesy Gil Talbot).

Everything is Bigger in Texas
National titles and All-American honors are on the line for the 11 Harvard men's and women's fencers headed to San Antonio, Texas to compete for the 2013 NCAA Championship in Freeman Coliseum. The Crimson brought home six accolades a year ago and captured the national crown in 2006. The men will open the competition from March 21-22 and the women will conclude the event with two days of action on March 23-24.

Watch the Action
ESPN3 will film and recap some of the preliminary bouts, in addition to streaming the semifinal and championship bouts live. The men's medal round is slated for Friday, March 22, at 2:45 p.m. The women's medal round will be shown at the same time on Sunday, March 24. Click NCAA.com or ESPN3 to access the stream. Live stats will also be available by clicking here

The Crimson
Harvard qualified the maximum number of student-athletes (2) in five of the six weapons: men's epee, foil and sabre and the women's epee and sabre. Two schools (Notre Dame and Princeton) will send 12 entrants, while Penn State, Ohio State, Columbia and St. John's will also send 11.

The Crimson men will be represented by juniors Eric Arzoian (sabre) and Michael Raynis (epee), sophomores Peregrine Badger (epee), Brian Kaneshige (foil) and Alexander Ryjik (sabre), and freshman Michael Woo (foil). The Harvard women will consist of junior Alexandra Kiefer (foil), sophomores Kara Lee (sabre) and Emma Vaggo (epee), as well as freshmen Aliya Itzkowitz (sabre) and Nina van Loon (epee).

Returning All-Americans from Harvard
Four fencers that earned an All-American accolade at the 2012 NCAA Championship are returning to the NCAA Championship this season. The Crimson men return three honorees, while the women bring back only one. Badger finished in sixth place in the 2012 NCAA Championship, earning second-team All-American honors in the epee. Ryjik and Kaneshige received an All-American honorable mention after placing 12th in the sabre and foil, respectively. Kiefer took 11th and was a honorable mention All-American at the national tournament in 2012. Kiefer won an individual national championship as a freshman in 2011. 

Title Defense
Both the genders return only one national champion from 2012. Men's foil Zain Shaito and women's epee Katarzyna Dabrowa, both of Ohio State, will put their titles on the line.

Harvard's Alexandra Keifer is one of five former NCAA Champions in the field this year. The junior is aiming to reclaim the foil crown she captured as a freshman. St. John's Daryl Homer (sabre) and Evgeniya Kirpicheva (foil), as well as Shaito and Dabrowa. 

More Hardware
Twelve student-athletes who medaled at the 2012 NCAA Championship will make another appearance at the event this year. The men's epee sees one medalist back, while the women's foil brings back three. Each of the other specialties have two medal-getters return for another chance to collect hardware. 

Over their respective two days, the men and women will compete in a round-robin format of 23 five-touch bouts. Each victory counts as one point towards the team total. The top-four finishers in each weapon will vie for individual championships with 15-touch semifinal and final rounds. The closing rounds do not contribute to the team point totals. The team title is awarded as a coed team. 

The Toughest Region in Fencing
The Northeast Region is sending more competitors (52) to the NCAA Championship than any other region. The men's field includes 27 student-athletes from the northeast, while the women's count is at 25. The Mid-Atlantic/South Region is second with 45 fencers, followed by the Midwest (32) and the West (15). Including Harvard, both the men's and women's sides had three ranked programs compete in the Northeast Regional. Additionally, the Ivy League will be represented by 51 student-athletes.

Regional Recap 2013
At the 2013 Northeast Regional hosted by St. John's University the Crimson collected five medals and 13 top-10 finishes. Brian Kaneshige captured gold, Emma Vaggo and Alexander Ryjik claimed silver, while Michael Woo and Alexandra Kiefer earned bronze.

Related Links: Men's Regional Recap  ::  Women's Regional Recap

The Crimson men collected six All-Ivy honors in 2013, including sophomore Brian Kaneshige's second straight First-Team All-Ivy League accolade in the foil with a 10-5 record. Fellow foil, freshmen Michael Woo (13-2) and Jerry Chang (10-5) also picked up first-team honors.  In the men's saber, senior Thomas Kolas was 9-5 on the weekend, garnering second-team All-Ivy status, while junior Michael Raynis (9-5) and senior Ben White (8-5) received All-Ivy second-team nods in the men's epee.

Three Harvard women earned All-Ivy honors this season. Emma Vaggo also earned a second all-conference accolade. The sophomore went 16-2 in the women's epee to garner first-team honors. Picking up second-team nods were senior Felicia Sun (epee) behind a 9-5 record and freshman Aliya Itzkowitz (sabre) with a 14-4 mark. Harvard's leading foil was junior Alexandra Kiefer, who went 11-7 on the weekend.

Punching Their Ticket to the Alamo
The qualification for the NCAA Championship is based on a formula comprising a 60 percent weight on regional performance and 40 percent regular-season meets. Regional champions for each weapon automatically advanced, with remaining bids going to fencers based on performance and the region they competed in. Twenty-four spots in the epee, foil and saber for both the men's and women's competitions are distributed.

In the Polls
Carrying momentum from the Ivy League Championship they captured on Sunday, March 2, the men jumped from No. 7 to No. 3 in the latest CollegeFencing360.com Coaches Poll. With 117 points, they are tied with St. John's in the national poll. The Crimson women improved one spot to No. 7 before the Northeast Regional.

CollegeFencing360.com Coaches Poll
1. Penn State
2. Notre Dame
3. Harvard
3. St. John's
5. Princeton
6. Ohio State
7. Columbia
8. Penn
9. Duke
10. Stanford

1. Notre Dame
2. Princeton
3. Columbia
4. Ohio State
5. St. John's
6. Penn State
7. Harvard
8. Northwestern
9. Temple
10. Penn