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Harvard Fencing Takes on Region's Best at NCAA Regional

Sophomore Ben White (left) will represent England at the World Junior Fencing Championship in April (photo courtesy IvyLeagueSports.com).

The Particulars
The Harvard men's and women's fencing teams head to Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. Sunday to compete in the 2011 NCAA Northeast Regional with qualification for the NCAA Championship on the line.

What's At Stake
Harvard could qualify up to 12 fencers Sunday for the NCAA National Championship, two for each of the three weapons in both genders. The national championship is awarded as a coed team title, so getting as many fencers as possible will be important for the Crimson. Harvard qualified the maximum of 12 last season and finished fifth at the championship.

Last Time Out
Both the men (19-2) and women (18-5) won their respective Beanpot titles over their local rivals MIT, Boston College and Brandeis Feb. 16 for the fourth straight year. The Crimson women beat host Brandeis, 22-5, defeated Boston College, 20-7, and earned a 19-8 victory over Cambridge rival MIT. Harvard was anchored once again by its foil squad, which went 26-1 with freshman Alexandra Kiefer and junior Shelby MacLeod going a perfect 9-0. Sophomore Felicia Sun went 8-1 on the day to lead an epee squad that went unbeaten in three duals with a 21-6 record. 

The Crimson topped Boston College, 19-8, beat host Brandeis, 20-7, and won, 19-8, over MIT to hoist the trophy for the fourth consecutive year. Junior co-captain Valentin Staller went undefeated (9-0) in the three bouts to anchor a saber squad that went 22-5 on the day in leading Harvard.

International Representation
Freshman Michael Raynis (USA) and sophomore Ben White (England) have been selected to represent their countries at the World Junior Fencing Championships to be held in Jordan (Dead Sea Convention Center), March 29-April 6.  Both are part of the men's starting epee squad lineup and both played a major role in the men's team's Ivy League championship win in February.

National Recognition
A total of four Harvard fencers have received national recognition this season from collegefencing360.com. Sophomore Benjamin Cohen was named National Fencer of the Week for Jan. 31-Feb. 6 after an 8-1 day at the Eric Sollee Invitational hosted by MIT. Kiefer was named a Primetime Performer for the same week thanks to an undefeated day at MIT.

Raynis was named a Primetime Performer for the week of Feb. 7-13 after his Ivy League Title-clinching bout win over Yale to give Harvard its first championship since 2007. Staller was named a Primetime Performer Jan. 17-23 for his performance at the St. John's Super Cup Jan. 23.

Fantastic Female Foil
The Harvard women's foil squad, led by Alexandra Kiefer and has included performances from sophomore Katherine Chou and junior Shelby Macleod, has been a force for the Crimson, going 9-0 in its dual against Tufts, 15-0 at the St. John's Super Cup, 26-1 at the Beanpot competition and 25-2 at the Eric Sollee Invitational. Harvard's foil squad went unbeaten during the two-day Ivy League Championship, going 6-0 to lead the team to a 4-2 record in the round-robin duals format. Kiefer has been a pleasant surprise for the Crimson, who in her freshman campaign has gone unbeaten at four different competitions and won gold at the season-opening Garret Open at Penn State.

Regionals 2010
The Harvard men's and women's fencing squads placed seven in the top five and 13 total in the top ten across the six events at the 2010 NCAA Northeast Regionals. James Hawrot earned a first-place finish, Tommasso di Robilant finished in second-place in the foil competition while Hao Meng garnered a third-place finish. For the women, sophomore co-captains Noam Mills and Caroline Vloka each placed second in their respective competitions. Shelby MacLeod earned a fourth-place finish while Felicia Sun posted a sixth-place finish in her first season.

Up Next
Those Harvard fencers who qualify will compete next at the NCAA Championship in Columbus, Ohio, March 24, hosted by Ohio State.