The 2004-05 season was looking to be a somewhat forgettable one for the women’s fencing team. The squad competed well all year, but an early loss to Harvard all but assured that they would not win the Ivy title for the second consecutive year.
This season remained unimpressive until Sunday, when Emily Jacobson changed everything.
The freshman saberist took on Olympic gold medalist Mariel Zagunis of the University of Oregon in the NCAA championship bout, and capped off her first year at Columbia by claiming the Lions’ first individual NCAA title since 1990.
“In the final bout, [Emily] had the better focus,” co-head coach Aladar Kogler said. “The pressure is very high, and it influences the result... If the best technical fencers don’t have perfect mental edge and focus, it is possible they will lose the bout.”<br> “I had never fenced a tournament like this before,” Jacobson said. “I was a little more comfortable with the format by the second day [of competition] ... once I start fencing I want to win no matter what.”<br> Jacobson’s championship performance reflected the Lions’ strong showing at the NCAA Tournament in Houston. They finished fifth overall, edging out Harvard by three points to claim the highest result of any Ivy school.
While Jacobson was the star performer of the tournament, freshman Morgan Midgley provided an almost equally impressive result, winning the bronze in epee. Midgley, who earned an at-large bid for the tournament, took 17 bouts in seven rounds of competition, before taking the medal from Penn’s Holly Buechel.
“She has some weaknesses because she is a young fencer,” Kogler said, “In spite of these limitations, she was able to produce her best. The right attitude and fighting spirit and ability to control emotions shows that you can get a great result.”<br> The men’s fencers couldn’t achieve the same standout results, but they did not leave Texas empty-handed, as sophomores Alex Krul and Scott Sugimoto were named second-team All-Americans, and senior Paul Reyfman earned an honorable mention.
The Lions finished with 137 points, just ahead of Harvard’s 134, and only eight shy of the fourth-place finisher, Penn State.
Columbia’s edging of Harvard comes after the Crimson swept both Ivy titles, splitting the men’s crown with the Lions. Harvard’s success shows the increasing level of talent within a league that was once dominated by Columbia and Penn.
“The league has changed,” junior saberist and co-captain Christian Robinson said. “Most freshmen [this year] had been training nationally. The competition is now really good national fencers.”<br> Harvard has reaped the benefits of the influx of talented youth, and an aggressive recruiting program has resulted in a strong team composed mostly of underclassmen.
“The strongest team [next year] will be Harvard because they are young,” Kogler said. “Nobody’s leaving.”<br> That Harvard team gave the women’s team a rude awakening in the first meet of the year with a 19-8 win which crippled the women’s title hopes before the season even got off the ground; for the second year in a row, the women would not win the League crown. The women had to quickly turn their sights from the Ivy title to salvaging a respectable year.
“We lost right away, so we set the smaller goal of beating every other Ivy team, and we did,” Robinson said. “We noticed we had many young players and they were so nervous [after the loss]. We let them know that Harvard had a good squad and put it in perspective.”<br> The rest of the women’s season was typical of successful Columbia fencing. Not only did the team beat every other Ivy opponent, they also upset Notre Dame, ranked second in the country.
The men had a more successful season on paper, as they walked away with a share of the Ivy title, but like the women, they endured low points to go with the highlights. They began the year with their most dramatic win in recent memory, a 14-13 nail-biter over the Crimson, with Michael Rose’s last touch in the final bout deciding the outcome.
“We knew coming in that Harvard was going to be strong,” sophomore foilist Scott Sugimoto said. “When we fenced them, that was almost the worst we could have done. We just got the best we needed to get.”<br> After that win, though, the men stagnated, dropping several non-conference meets and unexpectdedly suffering defeat at the hands of Princeton, 14-13.
“It was surprising,” Sugimoto said. “Princeton was just fencing really well that day ... We expected to beat Princeton, we just got unlucky. We lost some bouts we should have won.”<br> Both the men and women swept their final meets, beating Yale and Penn in those last two weeks. The men’s defeat of Penn ensured them a share of the league crown.
The road for Columbia’s fencers this year was rockier than in years past, a testimony to the Ivy League’s improvements across the board and which looks to be more imposing in seasons to come.
“I think it’s not going to get any easier next year,” Robinson said.
Durham, NC (U-WIRE) -- Going into the final set of bouts on Day 1 of the NCAA Fencing Championships, sophomore Ibtihaj Muhammad knew she had to win at least two of her final three bouts to have a shot at earning All-American status.
The Junior Olympic champion, who was an All-American in her freshman season at Duke, had lost to several lower-ranked fencers and had a losing record. But Muhammad won her final three matches, finishing the first day of the two-day event at 7-7.
Muhammad finished the sabre competition in 11th place with a 12-11 record, becoming the first two-time All-American fencer at Duke.
Two other female fencers and a pair of male fencers also competed for Duke at the NCAA Championships March 17 to 20 in Houston, Texas. The 10th-ranked women's team and unranked men's team competed together and scored a total of 48 points, 19 of which came from Muhammad. The Blue Devils finished in 13th place overall.
"Being an All-American last year I was under a lot of pressure," she said. "I put a lot stress on myself."
Muhammad said she let the stress affect her negatively before winning the final three bouts of Day 1. The following day, Muhammad beat several fencers who ultimately finished ahead of her in the event to lock up 11th place.
In his third appearance at nationals, Nathan Bragg finished 11th in the epee, earning his first All-American honors in his senior season. Freshman Jackson McClam finished 21st in foil.
Anne Kercsmar fenced to 16th place in the women's epee, winning 10-of-23 bouts. Like Muhammad, Kercsmar fenced better the second day of the competition.
"Anne fenced amazingly well the second day of competition," Muhammad said. "That is how she usually fences. Both Anne and I put amazing amounts of pressure on ourselves the first day."
Also for Duke, Allison Schafer finished 17th in the sabre with a 7-16 record.
It seems that everywhere head fencing coach Peter Brand travels, success follows. Championship titles, all-American finalists, NCAA qualifiers, and even Coach of the Year honors always accompany his name. Before coming to Harvard, the native Israeli led Brown to two women’s and one men’s championship titles, and he received the 1994-95 Northeast Collegiate Fencing Conference’s Coach of the Year award. How then, one wonders, does a coach continually enter programs and develop them into nationally recognized teams?
It’s simple—he has a plan.
This year at the NCAA tournament, Brand was the first recipient of the Schreff Sword, given to the USFCA Outstanding Coach of the Year, an honor awarded based on the votes of the coaches in attendance at the NCAA tournament.
Harvard’s recent success has undoubtedly been attributed to the presence of Brand. A love for the sport and committed relationships with his athletes combine to create a positive training atmosphere for his fencers.
In the six years Brand has reined as Harvard’s head coach, the program has witnessed one national champion, two all-Americans, both men’s and women’s Ivy and IFA victories, and a sixth-place effort at the NCAA tournament, the highest finish in Crimson history.
Brand’s passion for the sport and his “five-year plan” proved to be a successful combination.
When he entered the program at the start of the 1999 season, he immediately focused on recruiting top fencers from around the nation. Prior to Brand’s arrival, Harvard’s recruiting had been neither highly emphasized nor carried through.
Yet Brand notes that recruiting was an important part of the plan and, in effect, has played a central role in the development of the program.
“I had a five-year plan which included, primarily, trying to do some recruiting, which was not a big priority here in the past,” Brand said. “I went out and looked for some great student athletes.”<br> David Jakus, a junior on the team, also notes the importance of recruiting in the past few years and its impact on the program.
“The only way you can be good in college fencing is by recruiting,” Jakus said. “He recognized that right away and does a good job recruiting.”<br> Brand pointed out other important benchmarks in his five-year plan, including winning the Ivy League title and the IFA title—both accomplished by the men’s and women’s squads this year—and attending the NCAA tournament.
In addition, he mentions the importance of bringing in strong assistant coaches that, like him, will work closely with the athletes to form a constructive atmosphere. He also credits the university, as well as the athletic department, as being very influential in his ability to shape and lead such a successful team.
More importantly though, he notes that the secret to his success is that he absolutely loves what he does.
“I think the main thing here is my love of the sport and the enthusiasm I bring in,” Brand said. “I think it’s infectious and it helps the athletes. Knowing that your coach cares not just about the sport but about you as a person helps their performance.”<br> Jackus notes another significant strength of Brand’s coaching style is his ability to apply the perfect degree of pressure on his athletes, in order for them to feel motivated rather than overwhelmed.
“He makes it clear that you have to work hard to get things done,” Jakus said. “He makes sure you’re in the right mindset without putting too much pressure on you.”
So it comes as no surprise that with such an impressive background, an amazing passion for the sport, and his strengths as a coach, that Brand received the 2005 Schreff Sword. Along with the award comes a great deal of respect from fellow colleagues, which Brand ultimately suggests is the most honorable aspect of receiving the hardware.
“I think having that respect is a great honor for me, especially because I know them all very well as individuals,” Brand said. “Having their recognition means a great deal to me.”<br> “I am thrilled to have been chosen as the first recipient of this wonderful USFCA award by my colleagues across the U.S.,” said Brand at a press release shortly after accepting the award.
Freshman Emily Cross says that the award has been a work in progress and is extremely deserved.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Cross said. “He’s been working hard to develop this team, and he’s always been very committed. I think he definitely deserves it, and he’s worked hard for it.
“I am glad that all of his hard work is being recognized,” she added.
“At this point we have arrived,” Brand said, referring to his original five-year plan. But Brand remains confident that although he has succeeded in his original goals, the progress of the team will not stop here.
His impact on the squad within the past six years has been astounding, as he has carried the once-mediocre program into a state of national recognition.
Jakus notes that Brand’s overall contribution to the team has been highly positive.
“He sets the tone perfectly for the team in terms of getting us motivated and reaching our full potential,” Jakus said. “He makes sure we can succeed at a top level.”<br> The fencers’ performances this year have validated Brand’s five-year plan, but why stop there? Now his old plan can be retired, clearing the way for another of his visions for the future.
Andras Horanyi's voice doesn't rise and accelerate when he talks about his fencing ability.
He doesn't tell any grandiose story about his rise to the No. 1 ranking in the world in junior men's foil earlier this year.
"It just kind of happened," he said.
And it doesn't bother him that his world-class achievements receive a fraction of the fanfare that many high school athletes receive. "I fence for myself, not really for other people."
In six world cup competitions since November, his performance has been as consistent as his even-keeled demeanor — two seconds, three thirds and a sixth-place finish — and he hopes to ride that momentum at this week's world championships in Linz, Austria.
While skipping the last world cup knocked him out of the top ranking, Horanyi is still ranked No. 3 and is part of a Boulder duo that has the potential to make some serious American noise in a sport that is dominated primarily by European countries.
Horanyi, 18, who graduated from Boulder High School in December a semester early so he could travel to competitions, will compete in Saturday's junior (under 20) foil fencing and Tuesday's team epee competitions.
Boulder junior Nick Chinman, meanwhile, will become the first person ever to represent the United States in six different events at the World Championships. He began day one of the competition with a silver medal in the cadet (under 17) men's foil on Wednesday and will also compete in cadet epee, junior foil, junior epee, junior foil team and junior epee team.
Epee allows fencers to hit anywhere on the body but they must use the tip of the weapon. In foil, fencers must use the tip but must also hit only in the torso. Sabre allows competitors to use any part of the weapon to hit above the waist.
Gary Copeland, one of the coaches and club owners of Boulder-based Northern Colorado Fencers, said he believes Chinman, who finished fifth in cadet epee in last year's world championships, can place in the top-20 in all six of his events.
But Horanyi, he said, has the best shot of coming away with a gold.
The obsession that Fredericksburg resident Lydia Pappas has with knives could've turned out to be a bad thing.
But Monica Pappas, Lydia's mother, was determined to find a way to make it a positive.
Monica Pappas was at a local gymnastics center when she saw a business card for the Dark Horse Fencing Club. She figured that since Lydia was already into sharp objects, fencing may be the sport for her.
After all, the clarinet and violin had no luck in holding Lydia's attention. And dolls weren't doing it, either.
"The way most girls were into Barbie dolls, Lydia was into knives," Monica Pappas said with a laugh. "So I said, 'How can I channel this in a good way?' I'm just happy I finally hit on something she likes."
Lydia's knife fixation never took a dangerous turn. In fact, it's actually been something good for the 14-year-old Fredericksburg Academy freshman.
She's been a member of the fencing club for two years and has excelled since picking up the sport.
She won a silver medal at the Virginia Junior Olympics last fall. Last weekend, she participated in the Junior Olympics national competition in Arlington, Texas.
She finished 103rd out of 185 competitors in the four-day event. She won two of five matches, but was satisfied with how the competition went. She said her three losses were "very close."
"I think I did pretty well for that caliber of competition," Lydia said. "There was some remarkable talent there."
Knives fascinate Lydia because of their different shapes and styles. She owns a 24-piece knife collection.
Dark Horse Fencing Club coach Bruce Callander said it's common for fencers to have interest in knives. He said fencers are often into fantasy games and possess unique personality traits.
"We tend to get people who are out of the mainstream, or a little off-center," Callander said. "That just seems to be the case."
In Lydia's division, competitors use a long, swordlike object called a foil for competitions. It's made of steel, but isn't sharp. They score points by hitting specified targets on an opponent's body. Lydia competed in the Cadet Women's Foil division, where points are scored by hitting the opponent's torso area.
"It's fun," Lydia said. "It makes you think. It's physical, and it's a good workout."
The Dark Horse Fencing Club has been in existence in Fredericksburg for 17 years. The fencers practice three nights a week, twice at the Ray Grizzle Activities Center in Falmouth, and one night at the Presbyterian Church in Fredericksburg.
In her second year in the club, Lydia is now just beginning to tap into her potential. Last weekend's Junior Olympics was her first national competition.
She said she eventually wants to compete internationally. She's headed to a Ratings Rally in Harrisonburg this weekend, where she hopes to earn a ranking through a series of head-to-head battles. She's also training to be a referee, which Callander said will help her understand the sport better.
"She's going to benefit [from becoming a referee] by getting to see all the good fencers," Callander said. "And she'll be watching with a purpose. She'll see things from a different angle and in a different light."
Lydia isn't the first fencer from the Fredericksburg area to attempt to go further in the sport. Sophia Wicker is a former student of Callander's. She later joined a club in Northern Virginia, and helped it win the Summer Nationals Foil team event last summer.
The area will get more fencing exposure on March 5-6 when Fredericksburg Academy hosts a team qualifying event for the Summer Nationals. Also, Dark Horse fencers ages 6-13 will compete in a scrimmage against a Harrisonburg team tomorrow.
Lydia hopes events like those will encourage other young people to come out for the sport. Callander said close to 30 kids 14 and under participate in his club.
"Nobody at my school does it," Lydia said. "I know it's not going to get as big as other sports, but I would like to see more people get into it."
Monica Pappas often thinks back on the day she decided to present the idea of fencing to her daughter. She said Lydia's knife obsession began around the age of 8, and for four years, she had no idea what to do about it.
"It was odd," Monica Pappas said. "She really, really liked knives. I knew I had to do something. Luckily, I saw those business cards."
Last Edit: Mar 31, 2005 0:14:28 GMT -5 by LongBlade
The Vietnam national fencing team will attend the World Youth Fencing Championships in Austria from March 22-30. The team will include Le Dzung, Nguyen Thuy Chung, Trinh Thi Ly and Hoai Thu. Vietnamese athletes will participate at three individual events and one team event.
Columbus, OH (U-WIRE) -- Vladimir Nazlymov, head coach of the Ohio State fencing team, is a firm believer in finding ways for his team to peak at the right time. Due to injuries, however, Nazlymov knows that in order for the team to hit their stride this weekend at the Midwest Conference Championship, they will have to separate the physical play from the team's mentality.
"Situations like the injuries we have now always happen in sports," Nazlymov said. "But this season, they seem to follow us."
Denis Tolkachev, the men's squad's top epeeist, hurt his hand in practice earlier this week and will compete with it taped up heavily this weekend at Notre Dame. He will participate in a limited program in an effort to decrease close contact on Nazlymov's orders.
Christian Rivera, who recently qualified to compete on the U.S. National Team and will fight in the world championships in Austria next month, injured his back in practice on Tuesday.
Hanna Thompson, ranked No. 4 nationally in women's foil, and Metta Thompson, who holds a 32-6 record in the foil this season, both came down with the flu this week.
In addition, freshman foiler Alexandra O'Brazcova's season ending foot injury at the beginning of the year continues to be an issue for the team's depth.
Despite the recent plague of injuries and illness for the squad, Nazlymov doesn't expect any lineup changes and remains confident on one condition going into competition this weekend.
"We will need to use our mental program to compensate for where we're at physically," Nazlymov said.
Sabre captain Jason Rogers also believes in the importance of the team's mentality as they travel to compete in South Bend, Ind., this weekend.
"We are definitely capable of beating them," Rogers said. "We just need to be mentally altogether."
Experience is another strength that OSU has on their side, Rogers said. The Buckeyes are looking to win their third straight MCC title.
Nazlymov's unabated confidence already has him looking forward to next week's Midwest Regional Championships in Detroit.
"That's our main competition," Nazlymov said. "We want the entire team to qualify for the NCAA Championships so it will be a big test for us."
One consistent bright spot is Rogers, a junior, ranked No. 3 nationally in the sabre. He sees himself making a successful adjustment as he returns to postseason collegiate play this year after spending last spring with the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team.
"I'm feeling good," said Rogers, who has tallied a 22-3 record this season. "In the first few competitions I had to adjust to the college format, but I'm getting reacquainted and feeling confident."
For the rest of the season, Nazlymov's focus will be working to help his team reach their full potential in time for national competition.
"In any situation, we know that our main competition will be at the NCAA Championships," Nazlymov said. "Of course, now we will work on qualifying our entire team."
The Chicago Media is all atingle about the Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Illinois matchup Thursday -
Coach Roy has congrats for some new Northwestern All Americans and some thoughts about a player, now at Milwaukee, who didn't quite fit into the NU Style of basketball...
We've got to send congrats out to the women's Fencing and Swimming teams. The fencers finished 8th in the NCAA's, #12 overall, with only half a team.
You see NU goes into those tournaments with no male fencers - Varsity Fencing is only a women's sport at Northwestern. Our women still are good enough to finish ahead of teams that bring a full compliment to the NCAAs.
The Swimmers also only took 3 women to the NCAAs and still had enough to make 2 All Americans. Congrats to Christy Olin and Andrea Hupman.
Another team that's knocking on the door of greatness is the Women's Lacrosse. One of the Lacrosse sites is pushing for NU to get the top spot in their poll. It would be NU's first #1 in any sport in a long time.
Congrats Lets Go Cats [with sticks]!
-- da Coach
Last Edit: Mar 31, 2005 0:58:20 GMT -5 by LongBlade
HOUSTON – Junior Jenna Remmert represented Temple at the NCAA Women’s Fencing Championship this past weekend (3/19-20). Remmert capped a solid season with four victories at the event and a 21st place finish in the foil competition. As a team, Remmert helped the Owls to 30th place at the combined men’s and women’s championship.
Temple, under the direction of head coach Nikki Franke, ended the 2005 season ranked 12th in the final USFCA Coaches’ Poll. The Owls finished with a 17-8 overall record and won the National Intercollegiate Women’s Fencing Association Championship.
Ibtihaj Muhammad is Duke's first two-time women's fencing All-American.
HOUSTON, Texas - Sophomore Ibtihaj Muhammad earned All-America status at the NCAA Fencing Championships for the second straight year, placing 11th overall in the saber competition. Classmate Anne Kercsmar finished 15th in the epee and fellow sophomore Allison Schafer was 17th in the saber.
Muhammad, in only her sophomore season, becomes Duke's first-ever two-time All-American in women's fencing. The product of Maplewood, N.J. earned the honor last season with a ninth-place finish at the nationals. Muhammad wraps up a season in which she finished second at the Mid-Atlantic/South Regionals for the second straight season. Last month, she won the national championship at the Junior Olympics in Dallas.
Kercsmar finished 15th in the epee at the NCAAs after her second consecutive third-place finish at the Mid-Atlantic/South Regionals. She narrowly missed her second straight All-America nod. Last season, in her rookie campaign, Kercsmar earned All-America status by finishing third at the NCAA Championships.
Schafer was making her NCAA Championship debut, after qualifying only for the regionals last year. This season, she qualified out of the regionals and managed to break into the top 20, placing 17th in the saber.
HOUSTON - There were a lot of smiles on Sunday afternoon when Katia Larchanka of St. John's touched Ohio State's Metta Thompson to secure victory in the pair's women's foil bout. Those happy faces all belonged to the men and women of the Notre Dame fencing team, who saw themselves move into sole possession of first place at the first and best time. Moments earlier, senior Irish foilist Alicja Kryczalo defeated Columbia's Cassidy Luitjen to give the Irish at least a shared title, but with Thompson's loss, the Irish clinched their seventh national championship and their second in three years, edging Ohio State 173-171. "Overall I'm so happy with everybody. It came down to the wire, and that's the most exciting way to win," senior epee captain Kerry Walton said. The Irish qualified 11 out of a possible 12 fencers for the tournament, with only freshman Jakub Jedrkowiak representing Notre Dame in men's foil, but despite this, the team entered the weekend more than optimistic with regards to their chances to win their first team title since 2003. "As a team, we had really, really high expectations. Every year we come in expecting to win, and especially this year because Ohio State only qualified 11, that was huge for us," said sophomore sabre Matt Stearns. Stearns joined his four other teammates in competition Thursday and Friday, as the men took to the strips first in the championships. Senior epeeist Michal Sobieraj led the team, going 18-5 in the round robin before beating Ohio State's Denis Tolkachev and Wayne State's Marek Petraszek in the semifinals and finals to claim his first individual NCAA title. In his semifinal bout with longtime rival Tolkachev, Sobieraj avenged his 5-4 loss in the round robin, jumping out to a 7-2 lead and cruising to a 15-9 victory. In the finals, Sobieraj again took an early lead, going up 9-4. However, Petraszek fought back to make it tense, closing the scoring to 14-13 before Sobieraj scored the final touch to claim his victory. Continued...