In a combat sport, emotions get heated, momentum rises and falls like the stock market and, in the case of Penn’s fencing teams, critical tournaments sometimes simply do not go as anticipated.
Close first round losses to Harvard on both the men’s and the women’s sides hurt morale as they stumbled during the first day of Ivy League Championships. Although both squads fought back during the second half of the tournament, the men finishing at 2-3 and the women at 3-3, it wasn’t the tournament either team expected.
The men’s squad entered the tournament as a favorite, but lost to the Crimson in their first match Saturday, 14-13, ending their chance at an undefeated season. The women were defeated by their Harvard counterparts by the same score.
“Both of [the Harvard losses] were heartbreaking,” assistant coach Randy LeMaster said. “We really didn’t recover from the loss to Harvard.”
“That was a rough moment,” senior captain Zane Grodman added.
The men’s team was deflated physically and emotionally after their loss to Harvard.
“We didn’t have time to catch our breath,” LeMaster explained.
The men’s team couldn’t recover and lost their next match to Princeton, 19-8. They proceeded to win against Columbia before experiencing a particularly stinging defeat to Brown. The Bears’ win was their only victory of the tournament.
The Crimson would go on to beat Yale, 15-12, before losing to Princeton, 14-13. The Tigers men’s team was the tournament’s only undefeated squad, bringing their record to 19-2 on the season.
The Ivy League is arguably the best fencing conference, with four out of five men’s teams and three out of seven women’s teams ranked in the top ten nationally.
The Penn women’s team also seemed to be drained by their close loss to Harvard. The Quakers proceeded to lose to Princeton, 16-11, and Columbia, 15-12.
“We thought we had a good chance,” junior Amrit Bhinder said. “Just so many close bouts that didn’t come out the way we wanted to in the end.”
The women’s team has had a tendency to lose by very small margins. Of the seven losses the team has suffered on the season, five — including two this weekend — have been by three points or less.
However, they managed to end Saturday on a good note, thrashing Brown, 19-8. They carried the momentum into the next day defeating Cornell and Yale by a combined twenty points.
The men partially redeemed themselves on Sunday, squeezing out a 16-11 win against the No. 10 Yale Bulldogs.
Afterwards, Grodman expressed both frustration and hope.
“Obviously things did not go the way we wanted to,” he said. “[But at the Temple Invitational in two weeks], we’re gonna be back on our horse.”
LeMaster sought to simplify the importance of the weekend’s events, as well.
“We got a bloody nose,” he said. “Simple as that.”
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