February 28, 2009

Kozel advances to IFA semifinals as Judges finish in 6th place

WALTHAM, Mass. - The University of Pennsylvania won the overall and men's titles, while Columbia University captured the women's crown at the 112th Intercollegiate Fencing Association (IFA) championships held at Brandeis University today. It marked the first time that the Quakers earned the combined championship since the IFA began hosting men's and women's competition in 1996, while the men's title was their first since 1990 and their 10th overall. The win by the Columbia women was their first outright crown and second overall, having shared it with Princeton in 2003. The Lions also became the first team to finish first in all three weapons on the women's side.

For the host Judges, senior Caitlin Kozel (Jamestown, R.I./Lincoln School) had the team's best finish of the tournament, reaching the semifinals of the epee draw. Kozel, the third seed in the draw, defeated Kristen Hughes of Pennsylvania, 15-6, in the first round and Sophie Courser of Vassar College, 15-13, in the quarterfinals. Kozel led for much of the match before Courser tied it up at 12-12. Kozel won three of the last four points to advance to the semis, where she dropped a 15-7 decision to eventual champion Brandfield-Harvey.

Two Judges qualified for the quarterfinals in the saber. Sophomore Anna Hanley (Arlington, Mass./Lexington Christian), seeded sixth, won her opening-round match, 15-10 before falling to runner-up Shin, 15-9, in the quarters. Meanwhile, sophomore Adam Austin (Dix Hills, N.Y./Commack) earned the seventh seed after pool play and rallied from 14-11 down to score the last five points and advance to the quarters, where he fell, 15-12, to Peter Sounders of Boston College, the second seed. In foil action, two Judges qualified for the final 16, but fell in the opening round. Senior Will Friedman (Newton, Mass./Newton North) dropped a 15-12 decision to junior Isaac Kim of Columbia on the men's side, while classmate Jessie Newhall (E. Falmouth, Mass./Falmouth) rallied from 13-7 down to tie the match at 14-14 before falling to freshman Rocky Rothenberg of Princeton.

The top Brandeis squad performances came in the men's foil and the women's epee, where both squads finished in sixth place. The Brandeis men tied for sixth place in the three-weapon team standings, while the women were seventh overall. In the combined six-weapon team standings, the Judges finished one victory ahead of MIT to come in sixth overall, tops among Division III schools at the meet.

In the women's individual saber competition, Harvard's Caroline Vloka defeated Robin Shin of MIT, 15-6, in a battle of rookie fencers. It was the third women's saber title for the Crimson and first since 2003. On the men's side, Columbia junior Jeffrey Spear successfully defended his title against Andrew Bielen, a junior from Pennsylvania, rallying from am 11-7 deficit in the finals to win, 15-12. The Pennsylvania men won the saber squad championship for the second-straight year, while the Quaker women tied for first the second year in a row, matched by Columbia, who last won the crown in 2007.

In foil competition, Columbia won its second-straight women's squad title and fifth all-time, while Yale captured the men's title outright after sharing it with the Lions in 2008. It was the 15th time the Bulldogs have won foil title, the oldest trophy presented in intercollegiate athletics. Individual foil crowns were won by Pennsylvania rookie Alex Simmons on the men's side and sophomore Nicole Ross of Columbia. Simmons who defeated Columbia senior Sherif Farrag, 15-14, in the championship bout, is the fourth Penn fencer in five years to win the IFA foil title. Ross is the first Lion since 2002 and sixth overall to take the IFA crown. She topped Princeton rookie Andrea Oliva, 15-4, for the gold medal

In epee action, there was another tie atop the men's standings, where Harvard and Pennsylvania shared the crown. It was the second-straight year the Crimson tied atop the epee standings and marked the fourth time in five years they won or shared the title, while Penn earned a piece of the title for the first time since 2001. Columbia completed the sweep of the individual titles by going 28-5 in their epee bouts to claim their fourth title in the weapon and first since sharing it in 2004. Individual epee champions were rookie Neely Brandfield-Harvey of Columbia on the women's side and senior Benji Ungar of Harvard for the men. Brandfield-Harvey topped senior Maria Larson of Harvard, 15-13, for the first win by a Lion woman in the epee since the first IFA women's title in 1996. Ungar's title win came against Princeton sophomore Mike Elfassy, 15-8, marking just the second time since 2003 that the epee title wasn't claimed by a Tiger.