Fencing’s Hunt for NCAA Championship Begins Thursday

Fencing’s Hunt for NCAA Championship Begins Thursday

The Crimson is in the hunt for its second national championship this week in Columbus, Ohio (photo courtesy Gil Talbot).

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The Harvard fencing program's quest for its second national title begins Thursday, March 20 as 11 Crimson fencers head to Columbus, Ohio for the 2014 NCAA National Championships. Over the course of four days Harvard will compete at Ohio State's French Field House for individual and team crowns as well as All-American honors. The women will compete on the strip March 20-21 to open the competition with the men closing the event March 22-23.

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Watch the Action
All the action from the semifinal and championship bouts will be streamed live on ESPN3. The women's medal round is slated for Friday, March 21 at 1 p.m. while the men's round will be shown at the same time on Sunday, March 23. To access ESPN3's stream, click here.

Follow the Action
Fans can follow each round of the national championship through live stats by clicking here.

Well Qualified
Harvard sends 11 fencers to the national championships for the fifth consecutive season. The field of 144 student-athletes includes six Crimson men and five Crimson women. Harvard qualified the maximum amount of fencers, two, in five of the six weapons including men's and women's epee and sabre and men's foil. Penn State, Princeton and Ohio State will send the maximum of 12 entrants to Columbus, while Notre Dame and St. John's match the Crimson's number of 11.

The Crimson men will be represented by seniors Eric Arzoian (sabre) and Michael Raynis (epee), juniors Brian Kaneshige (foil) and Alexander Ryjik (sabre), sophomore Michael Woo (foil) and freshman Alexander Eldeib (epee). Harvard's women's squad will consist of senior Alexandra Kiefer (foil), junior Emma Vaggo (epee), sophomores Isabel DiTella (epee) and Aliya Itzkowitz (sabre), and freshman Adrienne Jarocki (foil).

Related Link: 11 Fencers Selected for NCAA Championships

Over their respective two days, the men and women will compete in a round-robin format of five-touch bouts for five rounds. 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 bouts with the winners fencing to determine first and second places, and the non-advancing fencers tying for third. The closing rounds do not contribute to the team point's totals. The team title is awarded as a coed team.

Looking Back at the 2013 NCAA Championships
A year ago, Harvard completed the 2013 NCAA Championship with 134 victories for sixth place. Seven Crimson garnered All-American status with three women and four men earning the accolades. Foil fencer Alexandra Kiefer finished sixth for first-team nods while Aliya Itzkowitz and Nina van Loon picked up honorable mention honors as the sabre fencer and epeeist finished 12th and 11th, respectively. With a bronze medal performance Peregrine Badger claimed first team accolades in the epee. Foil fencers Brian Kaneshige and Michael Woo nabbed second team honors while epeeist Michael Raynis earned honorable mention.

Related Link: Harvard Fencing Takes Sixth at NCAAs, Three Women and Four Men Earn All-American Status

Title Defense
Both genders return only one national champion from 2013. Men's foil Alex Massialas of Stanford and Notre Dame's women foil fencer Lee Kiefer will put their titles on the line in Columbus.

Harvard's Alexandra Kiefer joins Massialas as a former NCAA individual champion. The senior is aiming to reclaim the foil crown she captured as a freshman in 2011.

Returning Hardware
Thirteen student-athletes who made it to the podium at the 2013 NCAA championship have qualified for this year's event. All medalists from a year ago in the women's foil will return while three in the men's foil will take the strip. Two medal-getters in the men's and women's sabre and women's epee return for another chance to collect hardware.

We Are the Champions
Harvard captured its first-ever team crown in 2006.  Over the years, eight Crimson fencers – four men, four women - have sparred their way to individual titles with the most recent being foil fencer Alexandra Kiefer in 2011.

Punching Their Ticket to Nationals
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 advance, with remaining bids going to fencers based on performance and the region they compete in. Twenty-four spots in the epee, foil and sabre for both the men's and women's competitors will be distributed.

Fourth Time's a Charm
Seniors Alexandra Kiefer and Michael Raynis will take the strip at the NCAA Championships for the fourth time in their careers. In her first appearance at the national championships, Kiefer captured an individual title and has garnered All-America status in each of her outings at the event. Raynis picked up All-America honors as a freshman and junior when he finished sixth and 11th, respectively.  

Regional Recap
The Crimson collected a combined eight medals and 14 top-10 finishes, the most out of the 18 teams who had entrants at the Northeast Regional March 9. In their first collegiate regional Adrienne Jarocki and Isabel DiTella sat atop the podium in the sabre and epee, respectively, with gold while Aliya Itzkowitz (sabre) and Alexandra Kiefer (foil) picked up silver. Nina van Loon earned bronze to round out the women's medalist's. On the men's side, Michael Woo captured silver in the foil while weaponmate Brian Kaneshige took bronze.  Alexandra Ryjik finished third in the sabre for a bronze medal.

Related Links: No. 5 Men's Fencing takes Home Three Medals at NCAA Regionals | No. 3 Women's Fencing Captures Five Medals at NCAA Regionals

Host Ohio State
The 2014 NCAA Fencing Championships will be hosted by Ohio State at the French Field House. This marks the fourth time in seven years the Buckeyes have hosted the national championship, holding hosting duties, in 2008, 2011 and 2012.

To Be the Best, You Have to Beat the Best
Including Harvard, both the men's and women's sides will have three ranked programs competing in the Northeast Regional. The Crimson men, who rank sixth, will take the strip against the nation's top squad Columbia and eighth-ranked St. John's. The women, who are seeded third in the poll, will clash against the Lions and the Red Storm, who sit fifth and tenth, respectively.

Ivy Champs!
The combination of a 4-1 record and a Princeton win over top-ranked Columbia, the Harvard men's squad earned a share of the 2014 Ivy League title Sunday, Feb. 9 at Brown's Olney-Margolies Athletic Center. The back-to-back title marks the eighth overall for the Crimson men and third in four years.

Related Link: IVY CHAMPS! No. 6 Men's Fencing Earns Share of Ivy Title

Jarocki is Outstanding
For her undefeated 18-0 performance at the Ivy League Round-Robins, Adrienne Jarocki was named both Outstanding Performer and Outstanding Rookie Performer.  The honors mark a first for the sabre fencer and the Crimson program as the Middle Village, N.Y., native became the first fencer in Harvard history to be bestowed both honors and the first Crimson rookie to be named Outstanding Rookie Performer. Jarocki is the second Harvard fencer to be honored as Outstanding Performer as Caroline Vloka '12 garnered the award in 2011.

All-Ivy Honors
Five Harvard men fencers garnered All-Ancient Eight status with their performance at the Ivy League Round-Robins Feb. 8-9. Jerry Chang, Alexander Ryjik and Michael Woo earned spots on the first team while Duncan O'Brien and Alexander Eldeib received second team nods.

Six Crimson women fencers earned All-Ivy League accolades with their performances at the Ivy League Round-Robins Feb. 8-9, the most since matching that number in 2007. Sabre fencers Adrienne Jarocki and Aliya Itzkowitz earned spots on the first team while Kara Lee, Alexandra Kiefer, Isabel DiTella and Emma Vaggo received second team nods.

Beantown Bandits
The battle of Beantown on the fencing strip began in 2008. Every year since the inception, both the Crimson men and women have swept the field to hold all seven Beanpot titles.

Junior Olympians
Alexander Eldeib and Stephen Mageras captured their first Junior Olympics medal in February. Eldeib sat atop the epee podium with gold while Mageras finished second in the foil for silver.

Related Link: Eldeib, Mageras Medal at Junior Olympics, van Loon Earns Spot on US Junior Epee Squad

Since Harvard men's fencing began in 1902, the Crimson has seen 62 opponents on the strip. The Crimson has not a match to 35 of its all-time competitors to hold unbeaten records against 56. 5 percent of its all-time foes.

The Harvard women's fencing team has seen 51 opponents on the strip since its inaugural season in 1975. The Crimson women have not dropped a match to 28 of its all-time competitors to hold unbeaten records against 54.9 percent of its all-time foes.

And the Award Goes To
Adrienne Jarocki earned National Rookie of the Week honors presented by CollegeFencing360 Jan. 30, marking the first weekly accolade for the freshman. Jarocki was an intricate part of Harvard's sabre squad that went 33-12 to pace the Crimson's 2-3 performance at the St. John's Invitational Jan. 26.

Related Link: Jarocki Named National Rookie of the Week

Face in the Crowd
Aliya Itzkowitz was one of Sports Illustrated's Faces in the Crowd featured in the December 23 issue. The sophomore sabre fencer earned the honor that has been published in every week of the magazine since 1956, after helping the Crimson to its first 6-0 start under head coach Peter Brand since matching that record to begin the 2010-11 season.

Related Link: Itzkowtiz's Featured in Sports Illustrated Faces in the Crowd

North American Cups
Over the course of three months, 14 Harvard fencers took the strip at USA Fencing's North American Cups to compete against athletes from across the United States and Canada attempting to qualify for both the 2014 Senior and Junior World Championships. The Crimson notched three podium finishes. Jerry Chang and Nina van Loon grabbed gold in the Junior brackets for their respective weapons, while Adrienne Jarocki took home silver in the Division I women's sabre.

Related Links: Ten Harvard Fencers Compete at USA Fencing North American Cup, Chang Captures Gold | Five Fencers Compete at December North American Cup | USA Fencing's January North American Cup Features 11 Crimson Fencers

Bronze Bouts
Foil fencers Jerry Chang and Michael Woo have made a statement on the international strips for team USA this year as the sophomores have captured Junior World Cup Medals. Chang brought back bronze from the Eden Cup Saturday, Nov. 30, while Woo won bronze at the Udine Junior World Cup Sunday, Jan. 5.

Related Links: Chang Brings Back Bronze from Eden Cup | Three Men's Fencers Take Strip at Udine Junior World Cup, Woo Wins Bronze

Red, White and Bronze
Jerry Chang and Brian Kaneshige finished 75th and 86th, respectively, to help the world's top ranked United States men's foil team earn its seventh straight podium finish with a bronze medal performance at the Paris World Cup, the first senior international event of the season, Jan. 18-20.

Related Link: Chang, Kaneshige Help USA Win Bronze at Paris Foil World Cup

Captain Crimson
For the second straight season seniors Lucas Lin and Michael Raynis will lead the Crimson men as co-captains. The duo is the first pair to server two consecutive seasons as co-captains since Benjamin Schmidt '03 and David Wollenberg '03 did so for the 2001-02 and 2002-03 season.

A senior and junior will serve as co-captains of the women's fencing team for the third consecutive season as Alexandra Kiefer and Kara Lee take on the leadership responsibilities. The duo is the 18th set of Crimson captains to guide the women's squad since Bernadette Drankoski '90 and Genevieve Laforet '80 served as the program's first co-captains in 1979-80.

Trust in Brand
Peter Brand enters his 15th season at the helm of the Crimson. Under his guidance, Harvard captured its first NCAA championship in 2006, won a combined four Intercollegiate Fencing Association three-weapon titles, two IFA six-weapon championships and a combined eight Ivy League titles – three by the women and five by the men. He also coached 37 All-Americans in his time behind Harvard's behind. Brand sports a 163-61 overall record on the men's side and a 43-38 mark against Ancient Eight foes and sits at 200-62 overall on the women's side and 54-32 against Ivy League opponents.

New Sideline Addition
A new face has been added to the Harvard fencing staff as Jed Dupree joins the program as an assistant coach. He came to Cambridge after working as the head foil coach at Empire United Fencing. Dupree's competitor resume boasts prestige, including an Olympian at the 2004 Athens Games, seven-time member of the U.S. National Team and two-time men's foil national champion in 2001 and 2005, respectively.

Related Link: Dupree Joins Harvard Fencing Staff as Assistant Coach