Fencing falls to Harvard, Wellesley in first matches of new season

Senior co-captain Zoe Howard (left) competes in the Northeast Fencing Conference Multi-Meet at Boston College on Jan. 28. Eddie Samuels / The Tufts Daily Archives

Tufts kicked off its 2018–19 campaign in earnest with a three-team match against Wellesley and host Harvard on Tuesday. The Jumbos flashed their potential at times, particularly in the foil events, but ultimately fell to both opponents.

“The Harvard-Wellesley meet is the hardest meet of the season, and it’s also the first meet,” sophomore Georgia Kollias said. “We usually use it to work on skills for the rest of the season and to just get us ready.”

Tufts gave Wellesley a strong challenge, even pulling out a 7–2 victory in the foil bouts. Senior co-captain Zoe Howard and first-year Allison Cheng contributed three wins each, and Kollias added one to give the Jumbos a convincing victory.

Wellesley flipped the script in the other two disciplines, however, winning both by wide margins. The Blue took the saber matchup 7–2 and went one better in the epee, winning 8–1. Sophomore Lillie Ahearn was the sole Tufts saber fencer to find success, winning 5–3 and 5–1 in her first and third bouts. Sophomore Subin Jeong put up a fair fight in both of her matches, scoring two and three points, respectively, but the Shrewsbury, Mass. native could not come up with a victory. 

It was the same story for the Jumbos in the epee bouts. Only first-year Hannah Fruitman managed to defeat her opponent, notching a tight 5–4 victory. The rest of the matches were won in dominant fashion by the Blue, as the Jumbos failed to record more than two points in any of their other eight opportunities. With an 8–1 win in the epee, Wellesley wrapped up a 17–10 overall victory.

“We’re definitely going to do a lot better the next time we see them,” Kollias said. “We’ll see Wellesley three times during the season at three separate meets, so we’re really looking to see improvement over time.”

Much like in its match against Wellesley, Tufts performed well in the foil category against Harvard before falling to the hosts 25–2. Howard represented a bright spot for the Jumbos, winning two of her three bouts against the Crimson to close out the day with an impressive five wins out of six matches.

“I’ve never won a bout against a Harvard fencer before,” Howard said. “So picking up two wins was something that I just felt really proud of. I feel good heading into the rest of the season.”

The rest of Tufts’ foil squad was unable to find the same success, eking out one or two points in five of the other six matches and getting swept in the sixth. A talented Crimson squad wrapped up a resounding 7–2 victory in the category.

Harvard also notched a 9–0 sweep in the saber matches, mounting an overwhelmingly adept attack to win all but one bout either 5–0 or 5–1. The Crimson pulled off another clean sweep in the epee competition, though the epee matches were more competitive than the saber matches. First-year Caroline Hayes was able to notch three points against one opponent, and Fruitman did so twice. Despite their losses, the rest of the Jumbos performed admirably, with none getting swept.

Harvard also defeated Wellesley 24–3 to improve to 6–1 overall. Meanwhile, the Jumbos will enjoy their holiday break before traveling to Brown on Jan. 26 for the Northeast Fencing Conference Multi-Meet.

“A lot of us have clubs that we’re going home to over winter break,” Howard said. “So I know there will still be some training going on off campus. But overall the goal is to stay in shape and get some rest after finals.”

Going forward, the team knows there are adjustments to be made but have confidence that it will be ready for their next meet.

“We lost a lot of really great talent last year with the senior class, especially in epee and saber,” Howard said. “So I think going forward, we’re going to look at what we did in this meet and what we didn’t do and figure out how we can each individually improve moving forward for our next meet in January.”