February 27, 2009

Elis Gear Up For IFA Championship

Feb. 27, 2009

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - On Saturday, Feb. 28th, the men's fencing team will travel to Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass. to compete in the Intercollegiate Fencing Association Championship. Having completed their dual-meet season, and the Ivy League Championship, the Bulldogs are looking forward to tournament play. At last year's competition, the Bulldogs took home the Little Iron Man trophy, awarded to the Men's Foil Team champion. The award is the most prestigious of the tournament and is the oldest trophy still awarded for any collegiate sport in the United States.

The IFA is the oldest collegiate fencing conference in the United States and is associated with the Eastern College Athletic Conference. Twelve universities are members of the conference, including all seven of the Ivy League schools that have fencing programs. The championship's format necessitates that three fencers compete for each of the three weapons, epee, foil, and saber. These three fencers are organized according to classes, A, B, or C. The classes usually correspond to skill level with A being the highest and C being the lowest. Each fencer fences all the other fencers in his class for his weapon once. In the end, awards are given out for best squads in each weapon according to gender, best total team performance according to gender, and best school performance (including both men's and women's teams).

This format suits the Bulldogs very well, because it favors well-rounded teams. In the IFA Championship, each fencer only fences once against each school, as opposed to three times during dual-meet play. Therefore, unlike in dual-meet competition, in the IFA Championship, one superstar fencer cannot have a disproportionate effect on the overall team score.

"As we move to IFAs next weekend, we are looking forward to the different format that should give us an advantage as we fence many of the same opponents we have all year," said team manager Andrew Holbrook.

Holbrook went on to say that while the Bulldogs do have a superstar in captain Michael Pearce, a competition that favors well-rounded teams is preferable to them. The Elis have strong fencers in each of the nine spots, with no clear weaknesses. This gives them a clear advantage over teams who might dominate dual-meet play with a couple of superstars, but who lack the depth to compete at the same level in the IFA Championship.

The Bulldogs are looking forward to this relative advantage as they attempt to improve on last year's performance, when they took fourth place in the Men's Three-Weapon Competition and fifth in the Six-Weapon Competition (which includes both men's and women's teams from each school). Luckily, all three of the foilists who comprised last year's winning squad, Nathaniel Botwinick, John Gurrieri and Andrew Holbrook, will be returning this year.

Last year's fourth place men's team finish was a solid result that we are hoping to improve on this year," said Holbrook. "Although a repeat will certainly be challenging, the men's foil team is looking to again win the Little Iron Man trophy. Despite a number of injuries late in the season, especially Jonathan Holbrook's ligament tear, the team is still confident that we can improve upon last year's result."

Here is the schedule for events:


8:00 am M & W Saber Check-In
8:30 am Women's and Men's Saber Team Pools
10:00 am M & W Foil Check-In
10:30 am Women's and Men's Foil Team Pools
11:00 am Women's and Men's Individual Saber
12:30 pm Lunch and M &W Epee Check -In
1:15 pm Women's and Men's Individual Foil
1:15 pm Women's and Men's Epee Team Pools
3:30 pm Women's and Men's Individual Epee
4:30 pm Awards Ceremony

The list of participating universities in order of overall placement at last year's competition:


1 Columbia University
2 University of Pennsylvania
3 Harvard University
4 Princeton University
5 Yale University
6 Brandeis University
7 Boston College
8 New York University
9 Brown University
10 Mass. Institute of Technology
11 Vassar College
12 Cornell University (women only)

Report Filed by Arsi Sefaj '11, Yale Sports Publicity