COLUMBUS, Ohio -- For the 14th time in program history and first under the guidance of head coach Michael Aufrichtig, Columbia claimed the NCAA National Championship.
Coming into the final day at the French Field House, the Lions held an eight-point lead against Penn State and remained stable through the final day of competition before opening a nine-point gap that clinched the program’s third joint men’s/women’s NCAA fencing championship under a format that began in 1990. Aufrichtig, Seoung Woo Lee (foil/epee), Akhnaten Spencer-El (sabre) and Wesley McKinney, led the squad to its first title since 1993.After entering the day with 136 points and 42 bouts remaining for the team, the Lions wasted little to no touches, claiming 29 of those available points to take their team total to 165 points. Penn State and Notre Dame could climb no closer than nine points, totaling 156 victories each, but the Nittany Lions outweighed the Fighting Irish’s scoring indicator by 31 touches (176-145) for second and third, respectively. Princeton (145) and Ohio State (137) rounded out the top five.
Over the course of the first two days, the men’s team rose high for a combined 81 victories. Four of the six Columbia men earned All-American honors and junior epeeists Jake Hoyle and Brian Ro made it to the medal round and fenced each other in the semifinals. Hoyle prevailed and went on to defeat Princeton’s Jack Hudson for the NCAA Men’s Epee Individual Title.
Columbia’s fate fell on the tips of the women’s swords. The Lions were in a tight battle with Penn State and Notre Dame after the men’s competition. The Columbia women vaulted the team into first place at Saturday’s close and held off the Nittany Lions and Fighting Irish Sunday for the win.
But Columbia would not stop with a team title. Five of the six Lions women earned All-American honors and Margaret Luqualified for the medal round. The five All-American honors by the women complemented by the four earned by the men’s squad over the first two days of the tournament are the most by the Lions since 2007.
Lena Johnson was the bounce back story of the tournament for the Lions, rebounding from a 7-8 opening day to put together a record of 6-2 on Sunday. The first-year ended in 11th place with a record of 13-10 for honorable mention All-American accolades.
Anastasia Ivanoff made a name for herself in her first NCAA Championships, as Johnson’s class- and weaponmate put together a 15-8 record. The ledger was on the cusps of finishing in the saber’s final four, however, it matched Francesa Russo’s of Notre Dame. The tiebreaker came down to the scoring differential and the Irish’s Russo held a one-point touch over Ivanoff’s plus-26 scoring index to take the final spot in the top-four. Ivanoff will not leave Columbus empty handed as she brings second-team All-American accolades back to the Big Apple.
Lu was the second story of Sunday, as the junior qualified for individual title contention in the women’s foil. In her first appearance at the national tournament, she finished with a 19-4 pool play record with a plus-37 indicator, good for third-place and All-America first team nods. As the third-seed, Lu will fence Ohio State’s Alanna Goldie in the semifinal bout.
Jackie Dubrovich became an All-American for the third time in her career, as the junior found herself on the second team thanks to a seventh-place performance. The foil fencer tallied a 15-8 mark and plus-34 scoring index in her third trip at nationals.
Epeeist Mason Speta wrapped up the tournament in 11th place. The sophomore went 13-10 on the strip with a plus-2 indicator to pick up the first All-American accolade of her career.