Roar, Lion, Roar

Fencing Looks To Repeat as NCAA Champions; Men’s Hoops Hopes To Vie for Ivy Title

Columbia’s fencers are seeking to defend their national championship and the men’s basketball team is looking to continue its climb up the Ivy League ladder in the winter sports season that began with wins for both squads in November.

The fencers opened their season in impressive fashion with a clean sweep at the Columbia Invitational on November 6. The men’s team beat Stevens Tech 22–5, NJIT 19–8 and Hunter 19–8 and the women defeated Northwestern 16–11, NJIT 24–3 and Fairleigh Dickinson 27–0.

“Last year after we won the NCAA championships, we all sat down and it was like, ‘What are we going to do for this year?’” said head coach Michael Aufrichtig. “And the goal was, ‘Now is the year we start the dynasty.’ We did lose a few seniors who graduated, but we have a huge senior class and they are really excited to defend that championship.”

Columbia is led by men’s epeeists Jake Hoyle ’16 and Brian Ro ’16, who were first and third, respectively, at last year’s NCAA championships. Aufrichtig also cited overall team depth and what he called the “strongest women’s sabre team in the country” as other strengths.

“Our mindset this year is to even go stronger than we did last year,” he said. “We know we definitely have a target on our backs — I kind of feel as Columbia we always have a target but especially this year as the defending national champions we do have a target. Our mindset is we’re champions, we’re looking to defend that championship and be champions again.”

A basketball game being played

All-Ivy forward Alex Rosenberg ’16 is back in the lineup after missing last season due to a broken foot.

COURTESY COLUMBIA ATHLETICS

Columbia will compete in four more multi-team invitationals leading up to the round-robin Ivy League championships at Cornell Saturday, February 6–Sunday, February 7; the NCAA regionals at Vassar on Sunday, March 13; and the NCAA championships at Brandeis Thursday, March 24–Sunday, March 27.

The men’s basketball team, which was picked to finish second behind Yale in the preseason Ivy League media poll, opened its campaign at Levien Gym on November 13 by beating Kean 107–62. Three days later, Columbia traveled to Manhattan, Kan., and dropped an 81–71 decision to Kansas State.

The Lions, who won 21 games two years ago, dipped to 13–15 last year after All-Ivy forward Alex Rosenberg ’16 suffered a broken foot during preseason and withdrew from school for the year. Coach Kyle Smith is optimistic that with Rosenberg and guard Grant Mullins ’16, who missed last season because of a concussion suffered during the previous campaign, returning to a team headed by All-Ivy guard Maodo Lo ’16 and the versatile Isaac Cohen ’16, the Lions will have the firepower to contend for their first Ivy League championship since 1968. Lo (18.4 ppg) and Rosenberg (16.0) led the Ivies in scoring the past two seasons and are the first pair of 1,000-point career scorers Columbia has had on the same team since 1998–99. Behind Lo, Mullins and Cohen, the Lions have solid depth at guard with Kyle Castlin ’18, Nate Hickman ’18, C.J. Davis ’19 and Quinton Adlesh ’19.

“We’ve been picked to do well, and frankly we should,” said Smith, who likely will go with a three-guard lineup most of the time to take advantage of Columbia’s strength and depth at that position. “This is my sixth year here; the program has matured and I hope we’re ready to take the next step.” Smith noted that with a plethora of guards and wing players, it will be important that they “identify their roles” during the non-conference games that precede the Ivy campaign. At the same time, frontcourt players will need to step up. Key figures in this group are 7-foot-1 Conor Voss ’17 as well as Luke Petrasek ’17, Chris McComber ’17, Jeff Coby ’17 and Lukas Meisner ’19.

Columbia plays 17 games against nonconference opponents before beginning Ivy League play with a home game against Cornell on Saturday, January 16. After that the Lions will play five consecutive Ivy games on the road before finishing their season with six of eight conference games at home, the last against defending co-champion Yale on Saturday, March 5, at Levien Gym. Yale topped the preseason media poll with 117 points, followed closely by Columbia at 114 and Princeton at 108. Harvard, the league champion or co-champion each of the last five years, was picked to finish fourth with 96 points.

The Lions’ game at Yale on Friday, February 5 will be nationally televised on FOX Sports 1. Two other games will be televised by the American Sports Network: at home against Harvard on Friday, February 19, and on the road at Princeton on Friday, February 26. Columbia’s women’s team, in its first season under interim coach Sheila Roux, who took over after Stephanie Glance stepped down to become the executive director of the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, also has a nationally televised game, at home against Penn on Sunday, February 28 on the American Sports Network.