Since 1956, the Columbia fencing team has won the Ivy League fencing crown 41 times. The Lions will have the opportunity to add to that number when they take to the strips at Brown for the 2014 Ivy League Round-Robins this weekend.
The Light Blue has already faced both Harvard and Princeton this season, and the men (22-1) and women (17-4) went a combined 3-1 against the two schools. The only Columbia loss came in a grueling 14-13 match in which the Princeton women's squad narrowly outlasted the Lions.
Last year, the Princeton women earned their fourth consecutive Ivy Championship, as the Lions finished a close second. Although the Tigers are currently ranked No. 1 and are favored to win their fifth-straight title, Light Blue junior foilist Nzingha Prescod said she anticipates a tough battle between the two women's teams.
“I think probably Princeton will give us the most difficulty because most of their squads have really strong fencers on them, and they're pretty deep. But our squads are also deep, so we'll see what happens,” Prescod said. “It really will come down to who is at their peak performance right now and who has prepared the most this season.”
Prescod—36-3 in foil this season—claimed a silver medal on Saturday at the Gdansk Grand Prix in Poland and is currently ranked sixth in the world in the senior category for women's foil. Despite her success, she said she does not feel increased pressure this weekend.
“I see it as a competition to have fun and enjoy myself with my teammates. We're all really close, so it's a great environment to be in,” Prescod said. “I wouldn't call it so much pressure as it is a fun intensity.”
The spotlight will also shine brightly on the No. 1 Columbia men's team. After ending last year's competition in a three-way tie for second place, the Lions—who earned a No. 1 ranking in the Coaches Poll for the first time since it was created in 2001—will be gunning for a title.
Junior sabrist Michael Josephs said he sees the Crimson, last year's Ivy champions, as the team to beat this weekend.
“At the St. John's meet, we really took it to them, and we really wanted to set the tone for this weekend,” Josephs, who has a record of 33-4 this season, said. “I'm good friends with a few guys on the Harvard team, so it would definitely be nice to finally beat them and bring a ring back to Columbia.”
Josephs also said that he believes that it's important that the Lions keep their aggressiveness this weekend, despite their success.
“It's been great being No. 1, but I think it's kind of good that we lost a match so that we know we can lose—it keeps us hungry,” Josephs said. “I think we just have to keep the intensity up.”
The Lions will carry five first-team All-Ivy fencers into the round-robins, including Prescod and sophomore foilists Margaret Lu and Jackie Dubrovich from the women's team, and junior sabrist Will Spear and sophomore épéeist Brian Ro from the men's squad.
But according to Josephs, the key to the Lions' success lies more in their depth than in their high-profile individual athletes.
“I think the difference between this year and last year is that we're more cohesive, and we're a much closer team,” Josephs said.
Prescod also said that, as a unit, the Light Blue is well-prepared to take on its Ancient Eight competition.
“I think we're very ready, physically and mentally. We have a lot of confidence because we've all been doing very well, and we feed off of each other,” Prescod said. “I think we're in a good position, and I hope we come back with some rings.”
Columbia will begin its first round of play at 11 a.m. on Saturday and will resume competition at 10 a.m. Sunday. The event will be held at the Olney-Margolies Athletic Center in Providence, R.I.
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