GREENWICH VILLAGE, N.Y. -- "What A Difference A Day Makes" was a hit single for Dinah Washington. The Columbia fencing team would be happy to join in after rebounding from an uneven showing in Saturday's St. John's Super Cup to go 5-0, both men and women's teams, in the NYU Invitational Sunday in Coles Gymnasium.
The Lions took the measure of Northwestern, St. John's, Ohio State, Notre Dame, North Carolina and Wayne State in a fencing tour de force.
Maybe it was the team's renewed resolve after the men went winless yesterday, and the women lost their last two matches, maybe it was, as one fencer suggested, an even stronger sense of TEAM after everyone was stuck in a bus that got caught in a nightmare detour returning from St. John's -- a 40-minute trip took three hours -- or maybe it was simply winning all those close bouts which just slipped away Saturday, but the Columbia team that took the strip today was destined for success despite the strength of the NYU Invitational field.
"I expected to win today," head coach Michael Aufrichtig said.
The Lions wasted little time in doing so. Paced by a foil squad that won seven of nine, the women's team rallied from a first-round deficit to beat a highly-ranked Northwestern team, 16-11. Sophomore Nzingha Prescod and first-year Margaret Lu were each 3-0 in foil, and senior Loweye Diedro posted a 3-0 sabre mark.
At the same time, the men were taking the measure of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, beating the Tar Heels, 20-7. The battle of the blue stockings -- Columbia's trademark uniform of one Columbia Blue sock vs. UNC's one Carolina Blue and one black -- was decided by epee's 8-1 record and foil's 7-2.
Four Lions posted 3-0 records -- the veteran Bo Charles in foil, and three first-years, foilist Harry Bergman plus epeeists Justin Wan and Angad Singh.
The next match, against Notre Dame, did not go so smoothly. The Fighting Irish men led Columbia after Round One, 6-3. After two rounds, epee still trailed, 5-1. But rather than hang their heads and mope, the epeeists looked around, and took heart from what they saw.
"We noticed our fencers on other strips winning bouts," Aufrichtig said. "That picked us up. We picked each other up."
Indeed, while epee was struggling, sabre and foil made their moves. Trailing 2-1 after one round, sabre won three straight via sophomores Michael Josephs and Will Spear, and first-year Geoffrey Loss. Josephs and Spear each won 5-4 bouts, a pattern that was repeated frequently all day.
"We lost a lot of close ones yesterday," Aufrichtig noted. "Today, we won the close ones. Men's sabre [particularly], they were so good."
Epee also went 1-2-3 in Round Two. First-year Jake Hoyle, with his father looking on, edged World Junior Team standout Garrett McGrath, 5-4, senior All-American Alen Hadzic beat Michael Rossi, also by 5-4, and first-year Justin Wan surprised James Kaull, a national team fencer, 5-2.
The going got tougher in the third round, but in a true measure of
collective fortitude, Columbia sewed it up in each final bout. On the
sabre strip, Geoffrey Loss capped a 3-0 match by beating senior Jason Choy, 5-0, while Harry Bergman notched a 5-1 foil decision over Ryan Murphy. It was only foil's second win of the match, but it was a huge one. Hadzic then won the clincher in the Lions' 14-13 victory, 5-1 over Kaull, a long-time opponent.
The women's team got off to a better start, but saw Notre Dame catch up quickly. The Fighting Irish had pulled to within 10-8 after the second round. Epee, which had been shut out in Round Two, again went winless in the third round against ND's trio of All-Americans, and sabre lost its first two in the round. Uh-oh?
Nope, not to worry. Once again, Columbia's teammates were picking them up. In foil, Nzingha Prescod won her third bout, edging Madison Zeiss, 4-3, and first-year Jackie Dubrovich beat Nicole McKee, 5-1. Senior sabre star Loweye Diedro beat ND All-American Lian Osier by 5-4. Margaret Lu clinched the 14-13 victory when she defeated vaunted Olympian Lee Kiefer, 5-3.
After Notre Dame, it got a bit easier. Both men and women's teams beat Ohio State by identical 17-10 scores, and Wayne State by nearly identical ones -- 23-4 for the men, 22-5 for the women.
Hadzic was 3-0 in men's epee against Ohio State, the defending NCAA champion, and Loweye Diedro and Jackie Dubrovich posted 3-0 marks in the women's match.
Against Wayne State, Prescod and Dubrovich in foil, first-year Sarah Gruman in sabre, and all three epeeists went 3-0 for the women. The latter included senior All-American Lydia Kopecky, sophomore Diana Tsinis, and junior Camille Gallardo.
On the men's team, first-year Justin Hahn in epee, and Bo Charles and first-year Adam Mathieu in foil, went 3-0. The sabre squad turned in a perfect 9-0 slate, divided among Will Spear and first-year Rienzi Gokea, both 3-0; Geoffrey Loss, 2-0; and junior Mel Rodriguez, 1-0.
Columbia's Queens cousins, St. John's, loomed as the day's last hurdle. With partisan crowds from both schools cheering them on -- a number of ex-Lion standouts were on hand -- the women took a 6-3 first- round lead, then poured it on in the second round.
Sabre had tough going during the round, losing all three bouts, but as they had been doing all day, their teammates picked them up. Foil, behind Prescod, Lu and Dubrovich, won three straight in Round Two, and epee duplicated that feat, with Kopecky, sophomore Emma Peterson, and sophomore Natalie Gegan. That made it 12-5; the final score saw the Columbia women winning by 16-11, with Dubrovich going 3-0.
The men's match against the Red Storm was in doubt until the final bouts. Columbia led, 5-4, after Round One, but St. John's caught up in Round Two, and tied it at 9-9 heading into the final round of the day.
Although enjoying a guaranteed win each round since St. John's had only two sabre fencers, the Lion sabre team tripped in the final round, as both Josephs and Gokea lost. It was the first-years who stepped up, though (the Lions boast 15 newcomers).
Jake Hoyle and Brian Ro each won in epee in the final round, and Harry Bergman and Adam Mathieu in foil. Bergman's 5-1 victory over Wilfred Curioso proved the match winner, as the Columbia men closed out a perfect 5-0 tournament with a 14-13 victory.
Michael Josephs wasn't surprised.
"Yesterday," he said, "we fenced below our potential. We knew we could have won some matches. Today, we fenced to our potential."
Michael Aufrichtig summed the Lions' perfect 5-0/5-0 day: "Today," he said, "EVERYONE gave EVERYTHING they had, EVERY bout and EVERY match."
Columbia returns to NYU Thursday, February 7, for the Historical Meet Plus, pitting the Lions against the host Violets, a strong Sacred Heart team, and Vassar, beginning at 5 p.m. Two days later, Columbia begins fencing in the Ivy League Championships, held this year at Harvard on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 9-10.
Sunday, January 27, 2013
Men's Fencing (5-0)
20-7 North Carolina, 14-13 Notre Dame, 17-10 Ohio State, 23-4 Wayne State, 14-13 St. John's
Leaders: Geoffrey Loss (S), 10-2; Adam Mathieu (F), 8-4; Justin Wan (E), 7-4; Michael Josephs (S), 7-5; Harry Bergman (F), 7-5; Bo Charles (F), 6-3; Alen Hadzic (E), 6-3; Jake Hoyle (E), 5-2; Brian Ro (E), 4-1; Angad Singh (E), 4-2
Women's Fencing (5-0)
16-11 Northwestern, 14-13 Notre Dame, 17-10 Ohio State, 22-5 Wayne State, 16-11 St. John's
Leaders: Nzingha Prescod (F), 14-1; Loweye Diedro (S), 11-1; Jackie Dubrovich (F), 11-1; Lydia Kopecky (E), 10-5; Margaret Lu (F), 9-3; Essane Diedro (S), 6-4; Natalie Gegan (E), 5-5; Camille Gallardo (E), 4-1; Sarah Gruman (S), 4-5