The Harvard women’s and men’s fencing teams got off to a hot start in last weekend's season-opening meets. Both teams traveled to the Air Force Academy in Colorado to compete in the Air Force Western Invitational on Saturday and Sunday. The men won six out of its seven matches in the Rockies, while the women went undefeated across eight matches.
After a phenomenal season last year, in which it put up a 13-4 record and finished second in the NCAA Championships, the men's team showed that it is still the team to beat.
On the first day of the invitational, the Crimson went 4-1 against University of Incarnate Word, University of North Carolina, Stanford, Ohio State, and University of California-San Diego.
It began the day with a 23-4 win over the University of Incarnate Ward, with three wins each from sophomore foils Andrew Chung and James Liao, senior sabre Mitchell Saron, and senior captain and foil Kenji Bravo.
In their second match of the day, the men defeated the University of North Carolina 22-5, with the foil and sabre squads going 8-1. Then, the Crimson overcame Stanford, 18-9, with another standout performance from the sabre team.
In its penultimate match of the day, Harvard suffered its first setback of the season at the hands of the Buckeyes, who edged out a 14-13 victory. However, the Crimson was undeterred, bouncing back strong in its final match by dispatching UCSD, 19-8.
The team picked up where it had left off on Sunday with a 22-5 win over New Jersey Institute of Technology. In that matchup, Bravo and senior Filip Dolegiewicz captured three wins each in foil and sabre, respectively.
The men then faced Ivy League rival Colombia in a scrimmage that ended up being its closest match. Impressive wins in the sabre squad from Dolegiewicz, senior Jason Oh, and Saron secured Harvard’s 15-12 win.
The final match of the tournament further showcased the Crimson’s dominance, as the team earned a 17-10 win over Air Force. Led by Chung and senior sabre Daniel Solomon, who each had three victories, Harvard closed out the invitational on a high note.
Overall, the foil team was particularly dominant, racking up an 8-0 record in the Invitational. Bravo led the pack, winning 21 out of his 22 matches. Dolegiewicz, the reigning men’s NCAA sabre champion, won all seven matches.
“The team has pretty much the same three goals at the beginning of every season,” Saron explained. “Win the Ivy League Championship, win the NCAA Championship, and third is to accomplish the first two while being the best-looking fencing team in the Division I circuit.”
With the whole team returning for the 2022-23 season, plus the addition of talented freshmen, Saron was optimistic that these goals will be accomplished.
“We lost to Colombia last year at the Ivy League Championship, and got to beat them this past weekend, which is great preparation for the upcoming Ivy League Championship in February,” he said. “We are also an extremely close team and are looking forward to accomplishing the goals we have set.”
The women’s undefeated performance was arguably even more dominant. Competing against University of Incarnate Word, University of North Carolina, Northwestern, Stanford, Ohio State, and University of California-San Diego in the first day of the invitational, the Crimson was only seriously challenged by the Cardinal.
Sophomore Lauren Scruggs, who won the 2021 Junior and Cadet World Fencing Championships in foil, led the way in the discipline, going undefeated in her 17 matches. Overall, the foil squad turned in an impressive performance, winning 46-8.
The Crimson remained undefeated throughout day two of the Invitational, capturing 21-6 victories over New Jersey Institute of Technology and Air Force.
Both the foil and sabre squads propelled the Crimson, going 8-1 in their matches against NJIT. The epee squad also came away with a 5-4 victory, led by sophomore Claire Beddington’s three wins.
First-year sabre Zoe Kim secured three wins against Air Force, adding to her 11 victories the previous day in what was a brilliant collegiate debut.
Overall, both teams have set the expectation high for the rest of the season and are looking to build upon a successful previous year. With unmatched top-end talent and improved depth, both Crimson squads appear ready to compete for national championships in February.
Looking forward, Harvard will travel to Chestnut Hill and compete at the Beanpot on Nov. 16. It will face Boston College, Brandeis University, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
–Staff writer Caroline Behrens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.