NEW YORK -- Taking a cue from their head coach, the Columbia fencers came out with a new attitude in a meet which had been viewed as merely a steppingstone to the upcoming Ivy League Championships, and translated that attitude into an emphatic six-match sweep of NYU, Sacred Heart and Vassar in the Dodge Physical Fitness Center Wednesday.
"[Today] was exactly what we wanted," head coach Michael Aufrichtig said. "We couldn't ask for a better showing." Sacred Heart in particular had caused concern, but Aufrichtig's fencers were more than ready for the Pioneers. "Sacred Heart had upset a lot of teams, and we were ready," the coach continued. "We started 7-2 against both the men's and women's teams."
"Michael wanted to prove we are a strong team with no doubts," co-captain Sammy Roberts noted. "Sacred Heart is a ranked team. They have been beating good teams, but so have we! We proved we belong up with the best of them."
Roberts' women demonstrated complete dominance, losing just four of 81 bouts in defeating Vassar, 24-3; Sacred Heart, 26-1; and NYU, 25-2.
Four women's weapons  squads turned in perfect 9-0 showings, a rarity in fencing: women's sabre against both Vassar and Sacred Heart, women's foil vs. Sacred Heart, and women's epee against NYU. Four others posted 8-1 performances.
The Columbia women were successful in this meet last year, but in 2012, there was a difference.
"We worked a lot harder this year," junior Essane Diedro observed. "It showed in the results." The women took a new approach. "We have built up a new intensity this year. We are more focused. No more worrying about [who's] carrying the team any more."
Junior D'Meca Homer was 9-0 in women's foil, including a virtuoso bout against Kelly Ng of NYU, in which she rallied from a 3-0 deficit to take a 4-3 lead. Ng tied it at 4-4, sending it into sudden-death overtime, only to see Homer score the decisive fifth touch.
Several other Lions were spotless on the day -- senior Abby Caparros-Janto, 8-0 in foil; junior Essane Diedro and her twin sister Loweye, 7-0 and 6-0 in sabre; and Lydia Kopecky, 5-0 in epee.
The men's team had more to prove than the women's. Columbia's men had lost to Sacred Heart in both 2010 and 2011, both by 15-12 scores, and fell to NYU last season, 14-13.
"We took these matches a lot more seriously," senior co-captain Sean Leahy pointed out. "Sacred Heart has been winning against good teams. We saw Sacred Heart as a big target. We never did that the past few years."
Leahy ascribed much of teammates' success to their fast starts. "We started out great," he said. "Super vs. Vassar, super vs. Sacred Heart, super vs. NYU."
Aufrichtig noticed.
"We came out with an attitude," he said. "We wanted to bring it to those teams. Right from the beginning, we took [them] seriously."
The men posted 20-7 triumphs over both Vassar and NYU, and defeated Sacred Heart, 19-8. Men's sabre led the way, winning 24 of 27 bouts against the three opponents, as first-year Will Spear went 9-0, first-year Michael Josephs was 5-1, and sophomore Mel Rodriguez matched him at 5-1.
The men's epee team was victorious in 20 of 27 bouts, as Magnus Ferguson went 4-0 and Alen Hadzic was 7-2. Foil struggled more than the other two weapons, going 15-12, but Bo Charles was 6-1 and Alex Pensler was 6-2.
Many in the crowd of nearly 300 that packed University Gym, the fencing room a level below, and looked down from the running track could see the difference in the 2012 Lions. Several of the former fencers back on campus for the Homecoming match also saw a difference.
Bo Charles characterized the new look. It is, he noted, a matter of passion.
"Michael has really been bringing his passion to the matches, to our practices, to his preparation," Charles explained. "[in the process] his passion has become ours. Everyone is working harder."
Columbia and its coach will need to maintain their passion at the Ivy League Round-Robin Championships, which are at Yale Saturday and Sunday. The competition begins at 11 a.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. the following day.
Spectators should note that the competition will be held not in Yale's Payne Whitney Gymnasium, but in Coxe Cage at the Bulldogs' outdoor athletic complex, near the Yale Bowl.
Coxe Cage is the large brick building next to the Yale Soccer Stadium. It normally is used by Yale's track and field teams.
The Historical Meet Plus marked the final home appearance for five seniors: Abby Caparros-Janto, Billy Fink, Sean Leahy, Sammy Roberts, and Ariana Warr.

Today's scores and leaders:

The Historical Meet Plus
Dodge Physical Fitness Center
Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Men's Fencing (3-0)
20-7 Vassar, 19-8 Sacred Heart, 20-7 NYU
Leaders: Will Spear (S), 9-0; Alen Hadzic (E), 7-2; Bo Charles (F), 6-1; Alex Pensler (F), 6-2; Mel Rodriguez (S), 5-1; Michael Josephs (S), 5-1; Sean Leahy (E), 5-3; Magnus Ferguson (E), 4-0; Andrei Tapai (E), 4-2

Women's Fencing (3-0)
24-3 Vassar, 26-1 Sacred Heart, 25-2 NYU
Leaders: D'Meca Homer (F), 9-0; Abby Caparros-Janto (F), 8-0; Dianna Hohensee (F), 7-1; Sammy Roberts (S), 7-1; Essane Diedro (S), 7-0; Loweye Diedro (S), 6-0; Lydia Kopecky (E), 5-0; Emma Peterson (E), 4-0; Diana Tsinis (E), 4-0