Harvard Sends 10 Fencers to NCAA Championships

Harvard Sends 10 Fencers to NCAA Championships

Championship Information
Venue                         Indoor Multi-Sport Facility    
Date                            March 22-25, 2018
Host                            Penn State
Stream                        ESPN3/Watch ESPN app
Notes                          Harvard Postseason Guide
Tournament Central  NCAA Fencing Championships
Schedule of Events  Schedule
Live Stats                   Live Stats

The Storyline
The Harvard fencing program's quest for its second national title begins Thursday, March 22 as 10 Crimson fencers head to University Park, Pa. for the 2018 NCAA National Championships. Over the course of four days, Harvard will compete at the Indoor Multi-Sport Facility at Penn State for individual and team crowns as well as All-America honors. The women will compete on the strip March 22-23 to open the competition with the men closing the event March 24-25. 

Watch the Action
All the action from the semifinal and championship bouts will be streamed live on ESPN3 and via the WatchESPN app. A live feed of the semifinal and final bouts will be available on ESPN3 or the WatchESPN app. The semifinals and finals, along with other championships highlights will air on ESPNU at 1 p.m. Eastern time on April 4.

Well Qualified
Harvard will send double-digit fencers to the national championships for the second consecutive year. The field of 144 student-athletes includes five Crimson men and women each. Harvard nearly qualified the maximum amount of fencers, including two in both the men and women sabre divisions, as well as two in epee and one in foil for the women, with two in foil and one in epee for the men. Columbia, Notre Dame and Penn are the only school sending the maximum (12) to the event, while the Crimson ranks third in the Ivy in entrants (10) above Princeton (9), Yale (8), Cornell (2) and Brown (1).

The Crimson women will be represented by senior MacKenzie Lawrence (foil), junior Gabrielle Tartakovsky (sabre), sophomore Marta Lasota (sabre) and freshmen Cindy Gao (epee) and Saanchi Kukadia (epee). The men's squad will be represented by junior Eli Dershwitz (sabre), sophmores Erwin Cai (sabre) and George Haglund (foil) and freshmen Charles Horowitz (epee) and Geoffrey Tourette (foil).

We Are The Champions
Harvard captured its first-ever team crown in 2006.  Over the years, 10 Crimson fencers – five women, five men - have sparred their way to individual titles, with the most recent being sabre fencer Eli Dershwitz (2017). Dershwitz claimed his first national title last year after defeating Wayne State's Zaid Elsissy, 15-10. The junior is the first men's fencer to clinch an individual title since 2007. Dershwitz earned his second All-America first team honors with the victory.

Over their respective two days, the men and women will compete in a round-robin format of five-touch bouts. Each victory counts as one point towards the team total. The top-four finishers in each weapon will vie for individual championships with 15-touch semifinal bouts with the winners fencing to determine first and second places, and the non-advancing fencers tying for third. The closing rounds do not contribute to the team point's totals. The team title is awarded as a coed team.

Looking Back
At the 2017 NCAA Championships, Harvard finished fifth with 124 points, its highest placement since the 2013-14 season. Eli Dershwitz was crowned an indivudal champion in sabre, while also earning his second All-America first team honors. Four other Crimson fencers were awarded All-America honors as well.

Title Defense
After winning the 2017 NCAA Individual Sabre Championship, junior Eli Dershwitz looks to earn the crown for a second time. Dershwitz completed competition with a plus-66 touch differential and 22-2 record. The junior Sherborn, Mass. native has been unstoppable this season, posting a 47-6 record and plus-131 touch variance. Dershwitz was also named the individual champion in sabre earlier this year at the Ivy League Championships, while claiming All-Ivy first team honors.

New Level
Despite Harvard's consistent placement of student-athletes in the NCAA Championships, half of Harvard's 10 qualified fencers will make their national championship debut, including Cindy Gao, Saanchi Kukadia, Marta Lasota, Charles Horowitz and Geoffrey Tourette. Only Erwin Cai, Eli Dershwitz, George Haglund, MacKenzie Lawrence and Gabrielle Tartakovsky  had qualified for college fencing's most prestigious event in the past.

Host Penn State
The 2018 NCAA Fencing Championships will be hosted by Penn State at the Indoor Multi-Sport Facility. This marks the third time in 28 years the Nittany Lions have hosted the national championship, holding hosting duties previously in 1991 and 2009.

Punching Their Ticket To Nationals
The qualification for the NCAA Championship is based on a formula comprising a 60 percent weight on regional performance and 40 percent regular-season meets. Regional champions for each weapon automatically advance, with remaining bids going to fencers based on performance and the region they compete in. Twenty-four spots in the epee, foil and sabre for both the men's and women's competitors will be distributed.

Collecting Hardware
Freshmen standouts Saanchi Kukadia and Geoffrey Tourette collected two gold medals at the 2018 NCAA Regional Tournament on March 11 at Brandeis. Kukadia claimed the crown in epee after posting a resounding 17-6 record and plus-36 touch differential, while Tourette finished first at 20-3 and plus-66.

Poll Position
The Crimson's two squads have been mainstays in the CollegeFencing360 national poll, and enter the NCAA Championships ranked second (men) and sixth (women) in the country. The men reached its highest ranking of the season at No. 1 on Feb. 8, staying there for three-straight weeks at its highest ranking since the 2007 season.

This marks the 14th-consecutive season that the men's squad has been ranked in the top-10 and the 15th-consecutive season for the women. Harvard has been ranked in every poll since 2005.

Making History
The Crimson has set its mark in history by winning its 10th Ivy League title on the men's side, previously clinching the championship for three straight years from 2013-15. Harvard has now won five Ivy Championships in the last decade, dating back to when it first won in 1947.

Coach of The Year
Head coach Peter Brand was tabbed the Ivy League Co-Coach of the Year on the men's side for the second time in his career this season after guiding the Crimson to its 10th Ancient Eight championship. The Crimson went 17-2 during the regular season, marking the 15th-straight year Harvard recorded a record of .500 or better.

All-Ivy Honors
Six members of the Crimson were distinguished with All-Ivy accolades this season. Erwin Cai, Eli Dershwitz, Cindy Gao, Duncan Rheingans-Yoo, Geoffrey Tourette and Shawn Wallace were all tabbed to the All-Ivy first team.

Best of Beantown
The battle of Beantown on the fencing strip began in 2007. The Crimson men and women have swept the field sin ce its inception, winning all 11 Beanpot Titles.

Excellent in Epee
Harvard's women's epee squad, comprising of Cindy Gao, Saanchi Kukadia, Sharon Ra and Shawn Wllace have been dominant this season, topping the Crimson's line up with the most combined wins. Gao and Kukadia lead the team with 67-16 and 68-33 marks, respectively. The freshman fencers have also both surpassed the 100 mark in touch differential with Gao at plus-167 and Kukadia at plus-110.

Since Harvard men's fencing began in 1902, the Crimson has swept the series with 31 of its opponents. Its best mark comes against Boston University, with a 30-0 all-time record. Not to be outdone, the Harvard women's fencing team has gone unbeaten against 27 of its foes since the program began in 1975. Its most impressive mark comes at the sword of Tufts, which has fallen to Harvard in each of its 25 matchups.

Fresh Faces
Harvard welcomed two freshmen on the women's side and four on the men's side, with each group making an instant impact on the strip. Gao, Kukadia, Horowitz and Tourette are among Harvard's 10 student-athletes to qualify for the 2018 NCAA Championships, with all posting winning records in their first year campaign.

Dual Threat
Senior Eric Zhao and junior Eli Dershwitz have served as captains for the 2017-18 season on the men's side, while senior MacKenzie Lawrence and junior Sharon Ra took the reigns on the women's side. Dershwitz will make his third appearance this year at the NCAA Championships, while Lawrence will make her fourth.

Leading the Way
Head coach Peter Brand is in the midst of his 19th season as head coach for the Crimson, which has posted a winning record in each of the last 16 seasons under his watch. Harvard has won nine Ivy League Championships during his tenure, while also winning the 2006 National Championship. Brand owns a 195-87 record on the men's side and has coached a combined 47 All-Americans at Harvard.