CAMBRIDGE, MASS. -- Both the Columbia men's and women's fencing teams moved into contention for at least a share of an Ivy League title Saturday after the first day of the Ivy League Round-Robin Fencing Championships at Harvard's Gordon Track.
The women's team ended Day One undefeated at 4-0, with victories over Brown, Penn, Yale and Harvard. The women will face both defending champion Princeton, also undefeated at 4-0, and Cornell Sunday. Harvard, 2-1, is still in contention for a share of the championship.
The men's team won its first three matches, over Brown, Penn and Yale, but lost to Harvard in the day's final event by a 15-12 score. The men (3-1) will meet once-beaten Princeton (2-1) in the Lions' only remaining match. Harvard (2-0) and Penn (2-1) are also strong contenders, while 0-2 Brown has not been eliminated.
Head coach Michael Aufrichtig, hoping to bring the Ivy League titles back to Morningside Heights for the first time since 2008, was highly pleased with the women's showing. The Lions captured all four wins by impressive margins -- 17 in a 22-5 win over Yale, 13 in the 20-7 defeat of Harvard, and 11, 19-8, vs. both Brown and Penn.
Moreover, Columbia achieved those scores while substituting throughout the lineups, utilizing 12 fencers rather than the usual nine. Two Lions went undefeated for the day -- senior Essane Diedro (9-0) in women's sabre and first-year Jackie Dubrovich (10-0) in women's foil.
The foil team presented a formidable challenge to Columbia's opponents, winning 33 of 36 bouts. Fellow first-year Margaret Lu was 11-1, sophomore Nzingha Prescod was 7-1, and senior D'Meca Homer was 5-1.
Diedro was joined in the women's sabre lineup by her twin sister, Loweye Diedro, who was 7-3, and first-year Sarah Yee, 7-5. Senior Lydia Kopecky led the way in women's epee by winning nine of 12 bouts; sophomore Natalie Gegan won six of eight, and two other epeeists posted .500 records.
Like the women, Columbia's men were impressive through most of the day. The Lions defeated Brown, 20-7, Penn, 21-6 -- "I had considered Penn a sleeper among the teams," Aufrichtig noted -- and Yale, 20-7.
But they were unable to sustain that success against Harvard. Columbia fell behind, 6-3, after the first round, and never caught up. The foil and epee squads, which had won 16 of 18 bouts in the Penn match, faltered against the Crimson. Harvard went 5-4 in epee and 8-1 in foil to overcome Columbia sabre's 6-3 record.
Both Columbia teams will have to be at their best against Princeton, whether fencing or cheering on their teammates (Columbia's vocal support echoed throughout Gordon Track all day, a vital component of the Lion effort).
"I didn't lose my voice, [though] I was cheering every squad, every person all day," Margaret Lu said.
Although she had never fenced in the Ivy League Championships before, Lu had anticipated the intensity of the event.
"It wasn't the most physically draining tournament I've been in," said the veteran of countless national and international competitions, "but it was the most emotionally draining: cheering for my whole team, cheering for every fencer on every point.
"We have worked so hard this year leading up to the Ivy, for the rings. We have to be ready tomorrow."
Both the men and women will take the strips against Princeton at 10 a.m. It will be the final men's match; the women will face Cornell, which doesn't have a men's team, at 1:45 p.m.