PRINCETON, N.J. — All it would have taken is two bouts, just two different outcomes in the Columbia-Princeton women's fencing match Sunday morning in the 2011 Ivy League Championships, and the Lions would have been bringing the Lajos Csiszar trophy back to New York.
But although Columbia won many of those close ones, Princeton won just a few more, just enough to prevail by a 15-12 score that set the Lions back into second place, the same spot they occupied in 2009 and 2010.
"There is nothing to be ashamed of for either of our teams," head coach George Kolombatovich noted. "We came to Princeton with the real goal of winning the Ivy championship, and the realistic goal of finishing in the top two in the women's competition."
Asked to pinpoint any crucial bouts in the Princeton women's match he'd like to have back, the coach declined. "We got some breaks, but so did they," he noted. "I saw some pretty talented fencers on both teams, people you see in world championships, world cups and junior world cups."
But as talented first-year Nzingha Prescod pointed out, the Ivy League Championships are a different breed of tournament. Although she has fenced in dozens of international and national competitions, she noted that you are representing yourself at those. In the Ivy, "you can have your best day, and one of your teammates doesn't, and your team isn't going to win."
She also cited the short length of the Ivy tournament bouts, in which five touches win. International bouts require 15 touches to win.
"There's no time in a five-touch bout," she said, "to figure your opponent out."
The Columbia women figured enough of their opponents out, though, to win five of six matches. After its opening 15-12 loss to Princeton, Columbia defeated Harvard in a crucial match, also 15-12, and Brown by 22-5.
The men's team went winless for the tournament, losing to Princeton, 19-8; Harvard, 18-9; and Brown, 15-12.
Kolombatovich wasn't surprised by the men's results. "Our men," he said, "were one to two positions weak in each weapon. We'll be a lot stronger next year."
He spotlighted three men, all first-years, for their fine performances in the Ivy League tournament: Both Bo Charles and Alex Pensler in foil, and Alen Hadzic in epee. Charles, stricken by the flu all last week, struggled to a 2-4 record Saturday, but was a stellar 8-1 today.
"We tried to fence as hard as we could," Lion sabreman Billy Fink said, acknowledging the disappointing men's showing. "The Ivy League Championship is definitely one of our harder competitions. It's the one we wanted to win the most."
On the women's team, the coach had special praise for the sabre team, led by Sammy Roberts, and the epee squad. "Lydia Kopecky," he said of the sophomore epeeist, "was extremely solid." Prescod and D'Meca Homer turned in fine tournaments, as did epeeist turned foilist Gaby Strass.
"Gaby didn't win that many matches," he said, "but showed great spirit. It infected the whole team." Strass actually returned to epee briefly Sunday.
Veteran epeeist Neely Brandfield-Harvey was hardly saddened by the Lions' outcomes.
"Fencing is really hard here," she said. "I think we had a great tournament."
Ivy League Round-Robin Championships
Day Two - Sunday, Feb. 13, 2011
Jadwin Gymnasium, Princeton, N.J.
12-15 Princeton, 15-12 Harvard, 22-5 Brown
Leaders: Katya English (E), 8-1; Loweye Diedro (S), Sammy Roberts (S), Nzingha Prescod (F), and Lydia Kopecky (E), all 7-2; Essane Diedro (S), 6-3
Perfect Matches (3-0 records): Prescod vs. Princeton; L. Diedro and English vs. Harvard; Prescod, Kopecky, English, Roberts, L. Diedro, E. Diedro vs. Brown
Weapon Squad Records: Sabre 20-7, Epee 19-8, Foil 10-17
8-19 Princeton, 9-18 Harvard, 12-15 Brown
Leaders: Alex Pensler (F) and Bo Charles (F), 8-1; Alen Hadzic (E), 5-4
Perfect Matches (3-0 records): Pensler and Charles vs. Harvard; Hadzic vs. Brown; Pensler and Charles vs. Brown
Weapon Squad Records: Foil 16-11, Epee 8-19, Sabre 5-22
THE 2011 IVY LEAGUE FENCING CHAMPIONSHIPS
Women's: Princeton 6-0, Columbia 5-1, Harvard 4-2; Penn 3-3; Cornell 2-4; Brown 1-5; Yale 0-6
Men's: Harvard 5-0, Yale 4-1, Penn 3-2; Princeton 2-3; Brown 1-4; Columbia 0-5
Individual Standings (Columbia only)
Sabre: 1. Loweye Diedro,16-2; 4. Sammy Roberts, 15-3; 10. Essane Diedro, 11-7
Foil: 1. Nzingha Prescod, 16-2; 9. D'Meca Homer, 11-7; 19. Gaby Strass, 2-12. Other: Megan Ng, 0-4
Epee: 3. Katya English, 13-5; 4. Lydia Kopecky, 12-6; 16. Neely Brandfield-Harvey, 6-6. Other: Camille Gallardo and Gaby Strass, both 2-1
Sabre: 13. Mel Rodriguez, 6-9; 16. Billy Fink, 3-12; 17. Harry Lang, 0-15
Foil: 2. Alex Pensler, 11-4; 5. Bo Charles, 10-6; 14. TK Kim, 0-13. Other: Abhi Ramachandran and Neal Wannell, both 0-1
Epee: 3. Alen Hadzic, 10-6; 13. Sean Leahy, 5-10. Other: Magnus Ferguson, 4-5; Dylan Knox, 0-6.
2011 ALL-IVY LEAGUE (Columbia only)
First Team (women): Loweye Diedro (So., Freeport, N.Y.), sabre; Nzingha Prescod, (Fr., Brooklyn, N.Y.), foil; Katya English (Fr., South Pasadena, Calif.), epee
First Team (men): Alex Pensler (Fr., Chicago, Ill.), foil; Alen Hadzic (Fr., Montclair, N.J.), epee
Second Team (women): Sammy Roberts (Jr., Upper Saddle River, N.J.), sabre; Lydia Kopecky (So., Chicago, Ill.), epee
Second Team (men): Bo Charles (Fr., White Plains, N.Y.), foil