PRINCETON, N.J. -- The championship season for the Ivy League's fencing squads begins in earnest this weekend as the teams head to New Haven, Conn. for the 2012 Ivy League Round-Robins, which will be contested at Yale's Coxe Cage on Saturday, Feb. 11 and Sunday, Feb. 12.
Action begins at 11 a.m. on Saturday, when four rounds of matches will take place. Fencing on Sunday then begins with round five at 10 a.m., followed by rounds six and seven and the annual awards ceremony, which is slated for 3:45 p.m.
Looking ahead, there are plenty of great fencing story lines to look forward to.
On the men's side, Harvard, which won the 2011 Ivy Championship by the slimmest of margins to cap off a dramatic and exciting event, looks to defend the Ivy title for the first time since it won the 2006 title in outright fashion and then tied Columbia for the 2007 title. In an indication of how competitive and challenging the Ivy Round-Robins are, the Crimson are also aiming to become the first team to win back-to-back outright men's titles since Princeton did so in 1994 and 1995.
This season, the men's teams have turned in some impressive results against the best teams in the country paving the way for an exciting weekend of Ivy League fencing that could easily come down to the final touch for a second year in row.
Penn enters the weekend as one of the hottest team in the nation, having posted a 16-0 mark in 2011-12, highlighted by a win over top-ranked Penn State (14-12) on Jan. 28. Brown has also amassed 16 wins on the season so far and, like Penn, went a perfect 4-0 at the Eric Solle Invitational on Feb. 4.
Princeton enters the Round-Robins with a 14-2 record on the year, including a 10-1 mark at last weekend's Northwestern Duals, which took place on Feb. 4 and 5 in Evanston, Ill. The second-ranked Tigers downed defending national champion and fourth-ranked Notre Dame for their signature win of the weekend.
Yale most recently defeated Vassar on Feb. 4 by the score of 21-6 and will enter the Round-Robins with an 8-4 record. The third-ranked Crimson carries a 5-5 mark into Round-Robin action, while Columbia sits at 3-7 on the year, but will play host to Vassar, Sacred Heart and NYU on Wednesday night as part of The Historical Meet Plus. On Jan. 21 Columbia did come away from the St. John's Super cup with wins over the fourth-ranked Irish (15-12) and sixth-ranked St. John's (14-13).
On the women's side, Princeton enters the weekend with designs on a third-consecutive Ivy League title, having successfully navigated through the 2010 and 2011 Round-Robins with a combined 12-0 record. While every match at the Round-Robins carries with it a lot of weight in regard to the where the title ultimately ends up, it is magnified even more on the women's side where the last team to win the title while losing a match was Princeton in 2001, meaning the last 10 women's champions have needed undefeated records to claim the title.
That being said, with so many of the women's squads displaying impressive results against the nation's best this season, it would be hard to envision a team escaping 2012 with an undefeated 6-0 mark.
For example, Columbia had a particularly strong showing at the St. John's Super Cup and the NYU Invitational on Jan. 21 and 22 when the Lions picked up wins over fourth-ranked Northwestern (14-13), defending national champion and third-ranked Notre Dame (15-12), top-ranked Penn State (14-13) and Ivy foe Harvard (15-12), who is ranked seventh. Also at the St. John's Super Cup, Harvard downed the top-ranked Nittany Lions (14-13) and also took down the fifth-ranked hosts from St. John's (14-13). At the Penn State Invitational on Jan. 28, Penn came up with a win over 10th-ranked Duke (15-12) and this past weekend at the Northwestern Duals, second-ranked Princeton's wins over ranked opponents included besting eighth-ranked Temple (14-13) and fourth-ranked Northwestern (17-10).
Not to be overlooked, Brown carries an impressive 19-2 record into the weekend, including four wins against no losses in the Bears' most recent event, the Eric Solle Invitational. At that Feb. 4 tune-up, Brown's best win was a 14-13 defeat of Johns Hopkins. Elsewhere, Cornell rattled off nine consecutive wins to open its dual season and will be looking to get on a similar hot streak against Ivy foes on Saturday morning. Yale most recently topped Vassar (19-8) and Drew (26-1) in a pair of matches that took place on Feb. 4. The Bulldogs carry a three-match winning steak into the Ivy Round-Robins, as they also downed Sacred Heart (15-12) on Jan. 28.
Round-by-round highlights are challenging to predict and will change based on results from previous rounds, but a cursory look at the schedule shows things will kick off in a tense fashion highlighted by the Penn and Harvard teams clashing first on Saturday morning. Round three should also pack some drama with the Harvard-Yale and Columbia-Penn matches both taking place. Saturday ends with round four, where Harvard and Princeton meet. Sunday's opening round features a trio of intriguing matchups including Yale-Princeton, Columbia-Harvard and Penn-Cornell.
As with last year's event, the head coaches will again select the Most Outstanding Performer and Most Outstanding Rookie at the conclusion of the event for both the men and the women. The top-three finishers in each weapon (based on winning percentage and appearing in at least 75 percent of a team's matches) will garner first team All-Ivy accolades and the next three will be second team All-Ivy selections.