February 22, 2009

Bulldogs End Regular Season With 11-7 Record, Fourth Place Finish

Feb. 22, 2009

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - The Yale men's fencing team had a disappointing finish to its season, falling to Princeton and Penn at the Ivy North Competition, to end the year with 1-4 record in the Ivy League. Though this record is identical to the Bulldogs' Ivy League record from last year, they finish the season in a tie for fourth place -- one better than last year's finish. Moreover, the Bulldogs have ended their dual-meet season with an overall record of 11-7, much improved from last year's 7-9. At the conclusion of the day, captain Michael Pearce was named to the first team All-Ivy epee squad and senior Sebastian Cano-Besquet was named to the second team All-Ivy saber squad.

"Although we had a slightly disappointing finish as a team, we did have numerous individual achievements," noted Pearce. "And while our Ivy record was the same as last year, our season record shows how much improvement we have made as a team."

The Bulldogs began the day with a close-fought but disappointing 15-12 loss to Princeton. The saber and foil squads each managed to pull out 5-4 victories. Notably, Cano-Besquet and sophomore Nathaniel Botwinick both compiled perfect 3-0 records. However, the Yale epee squad lost by a score of 7-2, giving Princeton the chance to pull ahead for the victory.

"Princeton was a tough loss, but the fact we were so close demonstrates the improvements we've made this year," said team manager and junior Andrew Holbrook.

"We came out hard against Princeton, and although we put up a great fight, lost the match. The depth of their epee squad proved to be their key to victory," added Pearce.

In their second and final meet of the day, the Bulldogs lost to the eventual Ivy League Champion, Penn, by a score of 22-5. In an otherwise disappointing meet, freshman Shiv Kachru and junior Thomas Bell each fenced to 2-1 records in foil and epee respectively. The Penn team was very strong in all weapons and finished the season undefeated in the Ivy League and overall, to take the title from last year's champion, Columbia.

"Penn pulled out to an early lead and didn't look back; they certainly proved why they're this year's Ivy League champion," said Pearce.

With their 1-4 Ivy League record, the Bulldogs ended the season behind Penn, Columbia and Princeton, tied with Harvard and Brown for fourth place. Yet the team's season went better than the numbers would indicate. Included in that 1-4 record was a hard-fought win against Harvard that broke a seven-year losing streak, and two frustratingly close losses to Princeton and Brown.

"I am very proud of the way we fenced," said Pearce. "And while our Ivy record was the same as last year, our season record shows how much improvement we have made as a team."

Holbrook added that, "Through all of this, it should be mentioned that the team has benefited from the contributions of the freshmen and non-starters who have been there to help the rest of the team both on and off the strip."

With the regular season out of the way, the Bulldogs now have a week to train for the IFA Championship. Unlike the Ivy Championship, the format of the IFA tournament is not round-robin style and thus favors well-rounded teams, a fact which will play to the Bulldogs' advantage.

A week later, the Yale team will send a full complement of fencers (three for each weapon) to the NCAA Regional Championships. Last year, three Yale fencers, Pearce, John Gurrieri, and Botwinick moved past the Regional Championship, qualifying for the NCAA Championship. The Bulldogs aim to improve on that number this year.

Freshman Jonathan Holbrook, who qualified for the NCAA Regional Championship, will unfortunately not be able to compete because he is out for the season due to a high ankle sprain and ligament tear suffered during practice this past Wednesday.

Live information about the meet can be found at the official blog of Ivy League Fencing.

Report Filed by Arsi Sefaj '11, Yale Sports Publicity

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