CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Nine members of the No. 6 Harvard women's fencing team will travel to Brandeis in Waltham, Mass. this Sunday, March 11 to compete in the NCAA Northeast Regionals for a chance to qualify for the NCAA Championships. At last year's Championships, the women earned a fifth-place finish, its highest placement since the 2013-14 season.
Last Time Out
Harvard claimed its 11th straight Beanpot championship on Feb. 14 at MIT. The Crimson defeated host MIT, as well as Boston College and Brandeis in the annual tournament. Harvard began competition with a 21-6 win over Boston College before taking down MIT next, securing a 19-8 victory. The Crimson then clinched the title by closing out the tournament with a 20-7 win over Brandeis. Harvard has now won the Beanpot trophy every year since the inception of the tournament in 2007.
Competing for Harvard
Nine Crimson fencers have qualified for the tournament, including Cindy Gao, Liana Henderson-Semel, Saanchi Kukadia, Marta Lasota, MacKenzie Lawrence, Sharon Ra, Shawn Wallace and Natalie Yang. Six squad members sport a touch differential above plus-70, with two above plus-90. All nine of Harvard's fencers have registered a record above .500 this season. Gao is the sole-Crimson fencer to reach over 100 at plus-104, while Shawn Wallace comes close at plus-94.
Freshman Cindy Gao tops the Crimson's epee line up this season with a 50-10 record and is followed closely behind by Shawn Wallace at 57-19. Overall, the foil squad makes up three of the top five fencers for Harvard with Liana Henderson-Semel leading at 59-23, MacKenzie Lawrence staying steady at 55-27 and Natalie Yang coming in at 49-26. Marta Lasota and Gabrielle Tartakovsky pace sabre fencers, registering 48-30 and 36-26 records, respectively.
Scouting the Field
The 230 students competing represent some of the best collegiate fencers in the country, including some former and future Olympians, competing at the 2018 NCAA Northeast Regional. Harvard has faced 13 of 16 schools competing in the Northeast Regional, posting a 11-2 record against those competitors this season, most recently besting Brandeis, 20-7 at the Beanpot.
The student-athletes hope to advance to the national championships on March 21, hosted by Penn State in University Park, Pa.
Cindy Gao and Shawn Wallace were named to the All-Ivy first team in women's epee after placing third at the Ivy League Championships, Feb. 10-11. This is the first All-Ivy first team honors for both Gao and Wallace.
Staying Steady at #6
In the most recent CollegeFencing360 poll, Harvard was ranked at No. 6. This marks the 15th-consecutive season that the women's program has been ranked within the top 10. The women's team has been ranked in every CollegeFencing360 poll since 2005.
Harvard finished its 2016-17 campaign with a 14-8 overall record, posting a 3-3 mark against Ivy League competitors. The Crimson sent 11 fencers to the NCAA Championships, including six members of the women's team who finished fifth overall: Gabrielle Tartakovsky, MacKenzie Lawrence, Sharon Ra and Shawn Wallace, along with graduated seniors Adrienne Jarocki and Hali Nelson. Placing fifth overall at the NCAA Championships, Harvard clinched its highest placement since the 2013-14 season.
Senior MacKenzie Lawrence and junior Sharon Ra will serve as captains for the 2017-18 season. Lawrence finished last season with 44 wins and a 21st-place finish at the NCAA Championships. Ra concluded her sophomore season with a total of 63 wins, eight of which were at the NCAA Championships. Both Lawrence and Ra appeared at the Ivy League Championships last year, helping the Crimson earn a fourth-place finish.
At the Helm
Head coach Peter Brand is in the midst of his 20th 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 eight Ivy League Championships during his tenure, while also winning the 2006 National Championship. Brand owns a 250-82 record on the women's side and has coached a combined 47 All-Americans at Harvard.
Those who qualify after the NCAA Regionals will prepare for the NCAA Championships at Penn State on March 21.