Over at Walker Field House, the men’s and women’s fencing teams have been parrying away as they build towards the start of their season. Both squads will be performing this season under the tutelage of head coach Bruce Gillman. This will mark Gillman’s 11th season with the Brewers, and second year in a row with 20 plus wins.
Last year, men’s fencing went 20-14, an encouraging record that signaled the possibilities of even bigger things to come. Luckily, this year there is a huge amount of starter retention. Almost all of the experienced fencers from last year are returning for the 2015-2016 bid and are looking to improve their standings in the Northeast Fencing Conference, where they went 5-5 in conference play last season.
The men’s epee squad is coming off huge success. The starting trio of sophomores George Whiteside, Jonathan Alperstein and junior captain Ry Farley worked very well together. Alperstein had the second most winning record last season, posting 63 wins starting with his very first at a college competition at last year’s The Big One tournament. Whiteside and Farley finished the year with 57 and 61 wins respectively.
Foil was the only men’s squad to put up a losing record last season, but it is looking to rack up a few more wins this year with some more experience under their belt. Sophomore Tom Racek will be an important returner for men’s foil and fence the No. 1 position. Racek comments on the Brewers’ strengths this year, saying, “We have some very strong squads that can go toe to toe with some of the best Division I schools. All of our starters are returning for the men’s sabre and epee squads and the women’s foil and epee squads are even more stacked this year thanks to the talent of the Class of 2019. Regardless of all of that, our greatest strength lies with each other and the camaraderie that is present within the team. The camaraderie makes the wins so much sweeter and it also makes the defeats a little less sour.”
Vassar’s sabre fencers saw tremendous success last year, posting a 190-108 winning record. Sophomore Eli Polston delivered a stellar performance in his premiere season, posting 65 wins himself and winning the NEIFC Championship. Polston will be joined by two-year captain, senior Elam Coalson. The experience keeps coming with junior Campbell Woods joining the squad, who won 46 matches last season along with senior Zachary Wilson.
Racek recapped last season, “We qualified nine men and nine women to NCAA Regionals (the prerequisite to the NCAA Championship). The men’s and women’s team both finished the season with winning records and there were a lot of strong performances on an individual basis.”
On the women’s side, the Brewers are coming off a 27-20 season, posting the most victories in a season in program history. This year is exciting for the women as they are getting back two of their top epee fencers who missed much competition last year studying abroad. Last season, they clinched the third spot in the Eastern Women’s Fencing Conference and are looking to better their standings in the Northeast Fencing Conference.
Last year’s epee squad pulled out 185 wins for Vassar. The team is happy to welcome back senior Rachel Messbauer, who was studying abroad last year. She will be joined by junior Olivia Weiss, who is has been the most successful of the epee women, posting 80 wins in her last two bids. Senior captains Maggie Shepherd and Amreen Bhasin will also join the epee ranks, bringing with them excellent records as well as some very valuable leadership presence.
On the foil front, sophomore Kirsten Denman delivered a stand out premiere performance last year, putting up 149 of the squad’s 179 wins in her first season wearing burgundy and grey. Denman won the NEIFC Championships last winter. Junior Elsa Stoff, sporting a 146 bout career win record, will also contribute greatly to the foil squad.
The sabre squad will be struggling to fill some spots left over by some now-graduated seniors who delivered excellent career performances. Sophomore Annie Innes-Gold will be stepping up into the No. 1 spot, holding a 92 victory record for last season. Innes-Gold felt good about last year, saying, “Overall, the team had a really great season last year. We had a lot of tough meets, and one team victory that stands out to me was beating NYU, because it was the first time in several years that the women’s team defeated NYU. I think we were able to do this because we had strength in each of the squads, so each squad contributed victories. Last season was also a great first season for me. I was able to fence so much at every meet, which was a really great opportunity, especially as a freshman.”
Weiss said, “We are all working our hardest to prepare for the season with four practices a week as well as private lessons.” Innes-Gold added, “There won’t be one squad that will have to carry the other two; we should be getting victories from all three.” Both squads are unified in their goals for the season. Said Weiss, “Our team goal is to win the NEIFC Championships this season.” Racek agreed, saying, “Fortunately it is a shared goal, everyone wants to take their performance and the team’s performance to another level. We are all working hard to incorporate a lot of cross training activities outside of practice and during practice. We do all of this with the end goal in mind to win The Northeastern Intercollegiate Fencing Championships.”