Fencing sweeps Northeast Fencing Conference opponents

Junior George Whiteside faces opponent in epee. After an undefeated weekend in NFC play, the Brewers are off to New York City to face NYU and Columbia on Wednesday, Feb. 15. / Courtesy of Carlisle Stockton

Starting off the season with a 14 game winning streak, the Vassar men’s fencing team has maintained a remarkable season record of 28-9. This past Saturday, the Brewers faced off against five teams in their second Northeast Fencing Conference of the season. They pulled out a win against each of their opponents, beating the University of New Hampshire 26-1, Dartmouth College 21-6, Boston University 25-2, Sacred Heart University 17-10 and the University of Massachusetts 22-5.

With these wins, the Brewers earned a new school record for dual match wins in a single season. The 28 victories under the team’s belt trumps the record of 25 that was set by last year’s team. Throughout the program’s last handful of seasons, the team has been consistently improving, earning some of the best-ever records for the program.

These recent victories came as reassurance to the fencers, who have been trying to improve their game since a tough loss to Brown University, in which the Brewers lost the competition 11-16.

Junior captain Tom Racek noted, “This weekend was absolutely crucial for the team and will allow us to move forward with a positive attitude. It is no secret that we stumbled in our outing at Brown two weeks ago. The aftermath of the Brown match allowed us to test ourselves and become a stronger team mentally than we were before.”

Sharing these sentiments, Head Coach Bruce Gillman expressed, “Our outing at Brown a couple of weeks ago was disappointing. But I think that this weekend gave the team a boost of confidence moving towards the Northeastern International Fencing Championships and Regional matches.”

In the first match of the day, the Brewers took on the University of New Hampshire. They swept the competition, allowing their opponents to take only one point and winning 26-1. Both the foil and the epee groups were undefeated throughout this opening match. The sabre group almost went unbeaten as well, earning eight bouts out of the nine played.

Both freshmen foils Jack Holmes and Noe Berger finished victorious, as Holmes finished with a perfect 3-0 record as Berger claimed two wins.

Head Coach Gillman and his players believe that the new freshmen have contributed significantly to the success the team has encountered this season. “The freshman class has rounded out our already-talented team,” junior epee George Whiteside noted. “They have improved our chances to be a real competitor in the NFC this year.”

Against Dartmouth, the Brewers won 21-6. Each of the three weapons won seven points each.  Both Holmes and Berger won two rounds for Vassar, and junior Jonathan Alperstein won three, winning each of his bouts in epee. Racek took home another two of his bouts in foil.

Alperstein went undefeated in his three epee bouts, only receiving five touches throughout his challenges. These wins pushed Vassar ahead, along with the help of four combined victories from junior epees Daniel Swerzenski and Whiteside, who each won two rounds. Junior sabre Eli Polston added three more wins on top of this, while Mills took two and Lee won his only bout.

Against Boston University, the foil team took home nine bouts, as the rest of the squad won all but two bouts. Holmes finished with three more wins, taking his total for the day to 8-0. The Brewers’ mass of victories was supplemented by another two wins by Racek and three by Farley.

Vassar then took on Sacred Heart University, one of its biggest rivals to date, winning 17-10. The players wielding sabres dominated the victories for the Brewers, scooping up successful bouts for their force. Holmes led with two wins, while Farley and Alperstein both went 2-1 in epee. Whiteside earned a crucial 5-4 victory over a competitive Sacred Heart opponent. The most significant aspect of the battle against Sacred Heart came from the team’s sabre forces. Senior captain Campbell Woods won each of his three bouts against his opposition, as did Mills and Polston, whose scores ended reading 5-3, 5-3 and 5-2 accordingly.

After this intense round, the Brewers moved onto their final match against the University of Massachusetts, taking the 22-5 victory 22-5. Whiteside, Farley and Swerzenski each won two bouts, while Woods and Lee contributed to the scoring efforts with three each. These scores brought Vassar up to fifth place in the National Fencing Championship standings for a tie against MIT.

With the championships coming up soon, the team is determined to continue its winning streak. The Brewers will return to their competitive schedule on the road this coming Wednesday. They will travel to New York City in order to compete against New York University and the defending national champions, Columbia University.

This Feb. 15 showdown will mark the end of team matches, as the competition will become based off of individual performance. “The ultimate goal for the end of this season is to qualify as many of our fencers as possible to the NCAA Championships,” Racek reflected.

The players are going to use the practice and skill that they have taken away from their triumphant matches so far to prepare themselves for upcoming obstacles. Racek continued, “We have several weeks before that, so those weeks will be spent wisely in preparation for that task, which is attainable by many of the players on our team.”

The Brewers hold their heads high after their recent success. “This weekend was a great way to start moving into the championship season,” Whiteside declared with confidence. “A lot of our fencers did absolutely amazing at the meet, and that will definitely give us a boost of positive momentum moving into the final part of our season.”

Regardless of how many individuals go to the championships, the team will support each player in further competition. “We want to perform our best at the championships and NCAA regionals,” Whitefield explained. “There are many people with the potential to play well enough at the NCAA regionals to qualify for nationals. We have had a great season so far, and qualifying any of our players would be a great way to cap it off.”

Given the strong foundation set by this year’s players, Coach Gillman believes that the team will continue to excel. Coach Gillman predicts, “This season has been one of the best in history for us. And I think moving forward, we will be able to be even more successful in 2017-18.”

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