One of the least understood sports on the Vassar College campus is fencing. Despite this, the Brewers have been having a very successful overall season this year, bolstered by the performance of many talented freshmen. The team stands with a winning record of 15-13 overall. This is even more impressive when considering the schools the fencing team faces. The level of competition the Brewers face spans to not only other DIII teams in the area but to large university clubs and many top DI Fencing schools as well. For example, the next four schools the team will face include Yale University, Drew University, Columbia University and NYU. Columbia in particular is currently ranked first in men’s collegiate fencing.
Much of the team’s success this year has been due to not only the hard work of many upperclassmen but also the introduction of new freshmen starters to the team. Senior Giovanni Zaccheo, a foil fencer, had nothing but positive words about the new freshmen men this year. In an emailed statement, he praised their contribution to the team both on and off the strip: “The freshmen as a whole have been very engaged and have contributed greatly to a positive social environment this season. They are also contributing on the strip, especially with the sabre and épée squads, providing not only young talent but a depth that has been missing on the team in recent years.”
Sophomore sabre fencer Elam Coalson echoed Gio’s words. ”They all fit the team dynamic really well and many of them are extremely talented fencers as well.”
This year’s team also boasts a wealth of experience and talent that spans all three weapons and all four years. Freshman sabre fencer Campbell Woods has been impressed by the level of competition he’s seen from all three squads. “I’d say watch out for Ry Farley, Elam Coalson and Johnny Arden. Ry is a freshman on the épée squad and, simply put, he’s already at a level where he can beat most anyone he goes up against if he’s fencing at his best, and he still has three years after this, during which he can only improve. Elam is a sophomore on the men’s sabre team, and after only a year of fencing competitively, he has become a strong starter on our team, leading the way in not only sabre squad victories but also in men’s squad victories. Finally, Johnny arguably has the most experience of any member of the Vassar team: he beat two out of three of Brown’s starters. Simply put, he’s a very strong fencer who will consistently get results.”
Coalson, too noted Farley and Arden’s success this year and additionally praised two key foilists: junior Tre Artis and senior Matt Steinschneider. “Tre Artis may be the biggest x-factor on the team. He can beat anybody when he’s fencing well. Ry Farley and Matt Steinschneider are always solid and can be depended on to win key matches. Johnny Arden is coming back to fencing after a hiatus, but I think he could have one of the biggest effects on the team in this second part of the season.”
Zaccheo discussed how quickly Coalson was able to become a consistently winning starter for the Brewers and how important Artis would be for the future of the foil squad. “Ry Farley, a freshman on the épée squad, is probably our best bet to qualify for NCAA championships this year. Senior captain Johnny Arden on the sabre squad just returned from a semester off and, despite his break, has already hit the ground running, winning some impressive bouts over the weekend. We missed him while he was gone and he is a key part of our success as a team. Elam Coalson, also on the sabre squad, has improved tremendously in his two years on the team and is also a key contributor (he had a great day in Cleveland and was Vassar Athletics’ Athlete of the Week). On the foil side, senior captain Matt Steinschneider is consistently strong as always and leads our squad in wins. Tre Artis has also picked up his game significantly this season, in line with his development since freshman year, and he will be counted on as a leader for the foil squad and the team next year as our several seniors graduate.”
This past weekend, the team traveled to Boston College, leaving Poughkeepsie at 5:30 AM to face MIT, Boston College, Tufts University, Brandeis University and Brown University. The team managed to pull out two wins against Boston College and Tufts but was unable to match their success from their meet at Cleveland State over winter break. Zaccheo summarized the team’s feelings on the weekend. “We had a very tough schedule this weekend. We had trouble with the varsity squads in attendance: we barely squeaked by BC in a hard-fought win in front of a lively home crowd, and our only other victory was against Tufts, a club team. A win or closer loss to MIT would have been preferable, as we have beaten them before. Brown is always a strong team, and this year Brandeis is very good as well, so the fact that we even won some bouts was encouraging. A lot of the individual losses against those schools were very close and the final scores don’t reflect the strength of our performance. We were able to take a lot away from this weekend, especially in the matches we lost. We’ve only had four practices total this semester but had to fence eleven schools already, so our conditioning and technique should only improve from here and that might influence the results of closer matches like our loss to MIT.”
Despite the hard fought losses, there were many positives on the day. Freshman épéeist Ry Farley was very proud of his squad’s performance throughout the day. “Everyone on the épée squad did great both in Boston and in Cleveland. Both [freshman] Jackson [Dammann] and [junior] Bobby [Maiocco] pulled off some fantastic wins against some tough fencers. Even the matches that we didn’t win, we definitely put everything in and fenced as hard as we could.”