The championship season for the Ivy League's fencing squads begins in earnest this weekend as the teams head to Providence and Brown's Olney-Margolies Athletic Center for the 2014 edition of the Ivy League Round-Robins.
Some of the best teams in the nation wil be on display as five of the six men's teams and four of the seven women's teams appear in the latest CollegeFencing360.com coaches' poll, led by the top-ranked Princeton's women's squad and the No. 1-ranked Columbia men's squad. The Tigers have also won the last four Ivy Round-Robins titles on the women's side and have a 25-match winning streak at the Round-Robin.
Saturday's action gets underway at 11 am with the first of four rounds slated for the day. Rounds 5-7 are scheduled for Sunday beginning at 10 am.
There are 13 women and 12 men returning for this year's competition that were All-Ivy selections a year ago, making for a strong field. Among that group on the women's side, Princeton's Gracie Stone was unbeaten at the Round-Robins last year and rode that momentum to a third-place finish at the NCAAchampionships in her freshman season. Columbia's Jackie Dubrovich earned first-team honors in foil last season and continued into the NCAA championship where she was the national runner-up.
On the men's side, Michael Mills earned first-team All-Ivy honors at Round-Robins before going on to win a national title in men's saber. Michael Dudey, the Most Outstanding Performer and Most Outstanding Rookie Performer at last year's Round-Robins, capped off a strong freshman year at Princeton with a fifth-place finish in foil.
And of course, there was a team national title that came out of the Ivy League, as well, as Princeton held off Notre Dame for the NCAA combined title last year.
A year ago, the Bears placed fourth on the women's side and sixth on the men's. But this year has been a different story, thus far.
Following last weekend's Solle Invitational, the Bears are 18-1 on the men's side and 20-1 in women's competition. The men's squad cracked the College Fencing 360 top 10 poll for the first time ever last month, coming in at No. 9 in the first ranking of the season.
Sophomore Simon Jones went 17-1 in epée to lead the way at the Northeast Fencing Conference meet two weeks ago. Senior Nick Deak went 14-2 in saber, while Barrett Weiss was 12-1 in foil. For the women, senior Kathryn Hawrot, an All-Ivy selection last year, went 15-2 at the NFC meet.
Brown has never won a men's or women's title at the Round-Robins and hasn't finished higher than third (women's 2008), but this might be their best chance thus far.
The Lions earned their first No. 1 ranking this year when the men's College Fencing 360 top-10 poll was released last month. The men's squad IS an impressive 22-1, while the women are an outstanding 17-5 and ranked No. 6 in that initial top 10 poll.
Jackie Dubrovich returns this season after finishing second nationally in women's foil. So does Will Spear on the men's side, who finished fifth nationally in saber after going 10-2 at Round-Robins, as well as Brian Ro, who was sixth nationally in epée after an All-Ivy performance at Round-Robins.
On the men's side, two weeks ago at NYU and St. John's, the Lions beat No. 4 Notre Dame twice, No. 6 Ohio State twice and No. 7 St. John's twice while also defeating Harvard. Meanwhile, the women knocked off Harvard, No. 3 Notre Dame twice, and No. 4 Penn State. Time will tell if that momentum carries over and translates into a Round-Robins crown this weekend.
The Harvard men look to defend their crown, while the women look to end Princeton's four-year reign and get back to the top of the mountain. The Crimson's women's team was ranked No. 2 when the initial top 10 came out this year, the program's highest-ever ranking. The men were ranked fifth.
All five of Harvard's NCAA national qualifiers return on the women's side, led by 2011 national champion Alex Kiefer. Emma Vaggo went 16-2 in epée at Round-Robins last year to earn All-Ivy status.
For the men, Jerry Chang is among four All-Ivy selections that return from last year. Chang earned his All-Ivy status last season in the final bout of the Round-Robins, defeating brother Jason on the final touch to clinch the Crimson's second title in three years. Chang, Brian Kaneshige and Michael Woo each return after All-Ivy performances in foil last year.
Two weeks ago at St. John's, the women had five very close matches, defeating No. 3 Notre Dame and No. 4 Penn State, but falling to Columbia, No. 5 Ohio State and No. 10 St. John's. The men scored an upset of No. 2 Penn State, but suffered a couple of narrow defeats, as well.
Both the men's and women's programs were ranked No. 8 in the first top 10 poll. The men are looking to build on the momentum of a dominating 6-0 weekend at home in the Philadelphia Invitational two weeks ago and a strong performance at the Northwestern Duals last weekend. The women went 4-2, falling only to No. 7 Northwestern and No. 9 Temple, at home in Philadelphia and were impressive at Northwestern.
Michael Mills, who won the national title in saber and was a first-team All-Ivy honoree last year, returns for the Quakers on the men's side. The Quakers also gained a key transfer in Shaul Gordon, who finished second to Mills last year at the national championship.
Luona Wang finished fifth at nationals last year after narrowly missing All-Ivy honors.
The Tigers used a solid Round-Robins performance last year as a springboard to a national team title. Princeton hadn't won a fencing title under the current combined format started in 1990 and not since the men's squad last won in 1964.
The women's squad was ranked No. 1 and the men No. 3 in the first top 10 poll of this season. The top ranking marked the third-consecutive year the women's squad has been ranked No. 1 at some point in the season. The women's squad is a perfect 21-0 after 13 wins at the Northwestern Duals last weekend. The men are 14-5 after a strong performance at Northwestern.
Gracie Stone was a perfect 15-0 last year at saber on her way to Most Outstanding Rookie Performer honors. Diamond Wheeler was also All-Ivy in saber with a 13-3 mark. Anna Van Brummen went 15-1 in epée during Round-Robins a year ago to earn her All-Ivy status.
That will be the core of a group that will look to continue what has become a 25-match winning streak that goes back to the 2009 Round-Robins (when competition was held in two separate weekends at north and south venues).
On the men's side, Michael Dudey swept the Most Outstanding Performer and Most Outstanding Rookie Performer honors last year, going 14-1 in foil. He went on to finish fifth at nationals.
NOTES: Outside of the Ivy League there are a couple meets ongoing. On the men's side, No. 2 Penn State, No. 6 Ohio State and No. 10 Stanford will compete in a tri-meet. On the women's side, No. 3 Notre Dame, No. 5 Ohio State and No. 4 Penn State will compete in a four-team meet with unranked Stanford. Also, No. 9 Temple will travel for the Duke Invitational.