Facing 144 of the best fencers in the country at the 2012 NCAA Fencing Championships, Columbia’s men’s and women’s fencing teams finished in eighth place overall with five individuals earning All-American honors.
Ohio State, who hosted the four-day event, comfortably brought the national title back to Columbus with 182 victories. Despite sending fewer fencers than eight other schools, the eight fencers Columbia sent notched a combined 97 victories. Ivy League rivals Princeton finished in second place (with 161 victories), Harvard in sixth (136), and Penn in seventh (124).
Individually, the Lions brought back one first-team All-American (sophomore epeeist Alen Hadzic), two second-team All-Americans (freshman sabreur Will Spear and junior epeeist and captain Lydia Kopecky) and two third-team All-Americans (freshman sabreur Michael Josephs and senior sabrist and captain Sammy Roberts) to Morningside Heights.
At the 2011 NCAA Championships, Columbia finished in seventh place with its women’s team producing great results. At this year’s tournament, the three qualifying men did more than their fair share for the Light Blue.
Hadzic achieved the best result for the Lions, second place, at NCAA’s since Nicole Ross won the gold medal in women’s foil in 2010. It was an improvement for Hadzic, who finished ninth at NCAA’s last year.
After the round-robin portion of the event, Hadzic was seeded second with a 17-6 record. In the semifinal bout against Ohio State’s Kristian Boyadzhiev, Hadzic found himself down, 7-12, at the break. After receiving advice from his coaches, Hadzic make some key adjustments and came back to win in dramatic fashion, 15-14. In the gold-medal bout, Hadzic faced Princeton’s Jonathan Yergler, who had defeated him at this year’s Ivy League Championships. After closing the gap to 7-9, Hadzic couldn’t keep up with Yergler, who went on to take the title, 15-8.
Spear and Josephs also performed well. Spear finished in fifth place overall, just narrowly missing the top-four cut-off. Although he achieved the same record as Harvard’s Valentine Staller, 15-8, he tallied four fewer touches throughout the tournament. Josephs finished in 11th overall place with a record of 12-11.
Kopecky, who finished seventh at last year’s NCAA Championships, notched 15 victories to finish in eighth place overall. With the result, Kopecky made second-team All-American thanks to a one point advantage in touch differential. “I’m very happy with how it went,” Kopecky said. “In order to make All-American, you had to win a lot more bouts than last year, and this competition was the best I’ve fenced all year. I made the podium by one touch, so every single touch counts in this tournament.”
Freshman epeeist Diana Tsinis finished in 17th place with ten victories.
Roberts finished in 12th place overall in her last tournament donning Columbia blue. Roberts finished ninth as a sophomore and 11th as a junior at the NCAA Championships. Roberts’ result is impressive, considering the fact that it was unclear whether she would even be able to compete after suffering a serious ankle injury at the regional qualifying tournament.
“Firstly, I’m extremely excited I was even able to fence,” Roberts said. “I almost had a season-ending injury at Regionals and I can’t stress how lucky I was to even be here. I’m proud of my result and felt that I was really able to fence at a successful level given my circumstances.”
Robert’s junior teammate on the sabre squad, Essane Diedro, finished in 14th place overall with ten victories. Junior foilist D’Meca Homer finished in 22nd place.
While the Lions will be losing a few key seniors to graduation, this weekend’s results at NCAA’s bode extremely well for the future of Columbia fencing. (Head coach Michael Aufrichtig could not be reached for comment Sunday evening.)