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No. 2 Women’s Fencing Travels to St. John’s Invitational, Looks to Stay Unbeaten

The Crimson rides a six-match unbeaten streak into the invitational (photo courtesy Gil Talbot).

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The No. 2 Harvard women's fencing team looks to remain unbeaten as it travels to Queens, N.Y., for the St. John's Invitational Sunday, Jan. 26. The Crimson will take on No. 6 Columbia, No. 3 Notre Dame, No. 5 Ohio State, No. 4 Penn State and No. 10 St. John's. Fencing is set to begin at 10 a.m. at the Taffner Field House.

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Last Time Out
Harvard kept its 2013-14 record perfect as the Crimson downed five opponents at the Tradition Tournament hosted by Sacred Heart at the Pitt Center Sunday, Dec. 8.

Sabre fencer Aliya Itzkowitz paced the Crimson's attack as the sophomore claimed victories in all, but a single bout for a 14-1 record. In the foil, freshman Hali Nelson and senior Alexandra Kiefer went 13-2, respectively, while epeeist Isabel DiTella paced her weapon with a 12-3 performance.

Related Link: Women's Fencing Goes Unbeaten at Tradition Tournament

About Harvard
The Crimson makes the trip to Queens for its first duals of 2014. Harvard brings an unblemished record, 6-0, into the tournament, marking the best start under head coach Peter Brand since beginning 6-0 in 2010-11.

The Crimson's undefeated performance has been highlighted by sabre fencer Aliya Itzkowtiz. The sophomore has only dropped a single bout to sit at 17-1. In the foil, senior Alexandra Kiefer and freshman Hali Nelson boast 16-2 records, respectively. Sophomore Isabel DiTella leads the epeeist with a 15-3 mark.

Rank and File
In the initial CollegeFencing360.com Fencing Coaches Poll, the Crimson women rank second, the highest seeding of the squad in program history. Harvard is one-of-four Ancient Eight schools in the top-ten as defending national champion Princeton took the top spot, Columbia ranks sixth and Penn sits eighth.

Related Links: NCAA Fencing Poll | Women's Fencing Earns Program-Best Ranking at No. 2, Men Seeded Fifth

Just Keep Winning
The Crimson rides a seven-match win streak that dates back to March 3, 2013 into the invitational. The seven-straight victories mark the longest streak for Harvard since the Crimson matched that number to begin the 2009 season. 

Unbeaten
Since Harvard women's fencing began in 1975 the Crimson has seen 51 opponents on the strip. Harvard has not dropped a match to 28 of its all-time competitors to hold unbeaten records against 54.9 percent of its all-time foes.

Face in the Crowd
Aliya Itzkowitz is one of Sports Illustrated's Faces in the Crowd featured in the December 23 issue. The sophomore sabre fencer earned the honor that has been published in every week of the magazine since 1956, after helping the Crimson to its first 6-0 start under head coach Peter Brand since matching that record to begin the 2010-11 season. The London, England native has earned victories in all, but a single bout to hold a 17-1 record.

Related Link: Itzkowtiz's Featured in Sports Illustrated Faces in the Crowd

North American Cups
Over the course of three months, 14 Harvard fencers took the strip at USA Fencing's North American Cups to compete against athletes from across the United States and Canada attempting to qualify for both the 2014 Senior and Junior World Championships. The Crimson notched three podium finishes. Jerry Chang and Nina van Loon grabbed gold in the Junior brackets in their respective weapons, while Adrienne Jarocki took home silver in the Division I women's sabre.

Related Links: Ten Harvard Fencers Compete at USA Fencing North American Cup, Chang Captures Gold | Five Fencers Compete at December North American Cup | USA Fencing's January North American Cup Features 11 Crimson Fencers

About No. 6 Columbia
The Lions enter the invite at 9-3 after going 3-2 at the Penn State Invitational Jan. 12. Columbia is led by its foil squad that includes sophomore Jackie Dubrovich who has tallied the most victories for the Lions with a 32-1 record. Freshman Mason Speta and sophomore Sarah Yee pace the epee and sabre squads, respectively. Speta holds a 24-8 mark while Yee sits at 22-12.

Prior to taking the strip at the St. John's Invitational, Columbia will compete at the NYU Invitational Sat., Jan. 25.

All-Time Versus the Lions
In the 38th installment of the all-time series Harvard looks to snap Columbia's eight-match win streak. The Lions hold a 29-8 advantage in the series that dates back to 1980.

About No. 3 Notre Dame
The Fighting Irish makes the trip to Queens, N.Y., after opening their dual meet schedule Saturday, Jan. 25 at the NYU Invite. Notre Dame has sent fencers to individual tournaments including all three of USA Fencing's North American Cups.

All-Time Versus the Fighting Irish
Harvard looks for its first win over Notre Dame. The Crimson has met the Fighting Irish on the strip eight times since 1983, but has yet to come out victorious.

About No. 5 Ohio State
The Buckeyes carry a 9-1 record into the invitational after sweeping a six-opponent field at the Ohio State Duals Saturday, Oct. 5 to open their season. Foil has been the dominate weapon for the Buckeyes as the trio of junior Mai Shaito and sophomores Kyjah Coryat and Taylor McIntyre have combined for a commanding 83-7 mark, which includes a perfect 72-0 record at the OSD's. The sabre squad, which sits at 77-13 overall, is led by freshman Alexa Antipas and junior Celina Merza while rookie Eugina Falgui leads the epee team (74-16).

Ohio State will compete at the NYU Invite Saturday, Jan. 25 before taking the strip at the St. John's Invitational.

All Time Versus the Buckeyes
Since defeating Ohio, 15-12, in its first meeting in 2009, Harvard has dropped four straight against the Buckeyes to trail the series, 1-4.

About No. 4 Penn State
The Nitty Lions enter competition after going 5-1 at its own invitational Sunday, Jan. 12, to boast an 8-3 overall record. Freshman Jessei Radanovich leads Penn State's epee squad (58-41) with a 27-3 record while sophomore Clarisse Luminet's 18-4 mark paces the Nittany Lion's foil fencers. Graduate student Heather Nelson has notched 16 victories for the sabre team. 

All-Time Versus the Nittany Lions
Sunday marks the second meeting between Harvard and Penn State this season. The Crimson downed the Nittany Lions, 16-11, to snap Penn State's two-match win streak in the all-time series that dates back to 1980. Despite the victory, Harvard trails the series, 6-10.

About No. 10 St. John's
The Red Storm opened its dual season with a 3-3 showing at the Brandeis Invitational Sunday, Dec. 8. St. John's downed Brandeis, Yale and Cornell, and fell to Boston College, Brown and MIT. Epee proved to be the Red Storm's strongest weapon as the squad teamed up for a combined 46-8 mark in Waltham, Mass. Senior Alina Ferdman paces the epeeist performances with a 16-2 record. Senior Alexandra Tannous and Marta Hausman boast 15-3 marks in sabre and foil, respectively.

Prior to hosting the invitational, St. John's makes the short trip to New York, N.Y., for the NYU Invite Saturday, Jan. 25.

All-Time Versus the Red Storm
In a series that began in 1989, Harvard trails St. John's, 3-6. The two programs last met in Queens, N.Y., a year ago when the Red Storm edged the Crimson, 16-11.