Men’s fencing champions keep opponents ‘en garde’

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The men’s fencing team enjoyed a successful day at the New England Intercollegiate Fencing Championships this past Saturday. The epee squad went 27-3, capturing the title for best squad. Photo courtesy of Vassar Athletics

“1! 2! 3! BREW-TANG CLAN AIN’T NOTH­ING TO FENCE WITH! GO VC!”

Sophomore Tom Racek said, “We always start off a meet with this chant.” And truly the Vassar fencing team is a very formidable op­ponent.

This past Saturday, Feb. 20, the Vassar’s men’s and women’s fencing teams went to Wellesley, Massachusetts to compete in the NEIFC Cham­pionships. Vassar was very successful with the men’s team tying for the Vitaly Cup, in other words they won the Championships, and the women’s team placing fifth of 13th with several players earning individual honors. Like Coach Bruce Gillman said, “Very good day for VC Fencing.”

Racek said, “There is no such thing as a self-made team or individual, as a team we have had so much support since the beginning of the season which has helped to make this moment. The trophy, the victories and the title is for those who supported us along the way.”

Coach Gillman has been the team’s head coach for the past 10 years. He has led the men’s fencing team to seven straight double-digit win seasons, along with five winning campaigns. He brings a lot of experience and dedication to the team, and the players notice and appreciate him for that.

“During the awards ceremony we all stormed the area and gave our coach (who was present­ing the awards) a hug. It’s without a doubt that we all put in copious amounts of time and en­ergy behind our goal of winning the Champi­onships, but is also crucial to recognize that we were only able to do so because of the equal–if not more–effort put in by our coaches, espe­cially Coach Gillman,” says Racek.

Many players agree that this has been a strong team for Vassar throughout the year.

Senior Justin Riley said, “This has been a re­cord breaking year as far as overall team wins are concerned. Standout performances for this tournament include Tom Racek who placed second overall in men’s foil. Biggest standout would be the men’s epee team (George White­side, Jonathan Alperstein and Ry Farley) who took first, second and third respectively. My ex­perience this year has been very fun. The team worked well together all season, and I’m very proud to have been a part of this team for the past four years.”

Speaking on behalf of the men’s team, Racek laid out the day, “Most of the standout perfor­mances stemmed from the epee squad…who also captured the title for best squad as they went 27-3 on the day. Saber also had a strong performance as captain Elam Coalson finished seventh on the day. I personally finished sec­ond for foil in the overall tournament. Michael Skolnick for foil also had a very strong perfor­mance, although he did not make it to the final pool, he showed the grit and determination of a champion and only lost two bouts throughout the whole day.” Racek also added, “[I] seriously could not have hoped for a better season and experience with this team. I am euphoric to know that I am fortunate enough to have two more seasons with the team. It’s an adventure that I am never going to forget and something that I will carry with me for the rest of my days.”

Although Vassar was wildly successful it did not mean that they didn’t have to fight for their wins. Racek said, “It varied from squad to squad but overall Brandeis and Boston College were probably the toughest matches for the team. Both of those teams are well rounded and are very balanced as far as skill and depth.” The Vitale Cup was a three-way tie between Vassar, Brandeis and MIT.

As for the women, they finished fifth out of 13 teams in the three-weapon score. They were edged out by Boston University, MIT, Brandeis and Tufts, yet finished with a +115 touche dif­ferential.

Junior Olivia Weiss said, “This season has been great: the freshmen this year are all good additions to the team and the upperclassmen are all still improving and working to make this our best season yet. The women’s team as a whole did well, and we ended the day with two sixth place finishes—Kirsten Denman (foil) and Rose Hulsey-Vincent (epee)—and two sev­enth place finishes–Annie Innes-Gold (sabre) and myself (epee).”

Innes-Gold, a sophomore, competed against Katherine Mentzer in direct elimination and lost a tight 15-12 bout. She fought tough throughout the day and was extremely close to finishing higher. Weiss fell to second-seeded Mounica Paturu 15-11 in an equally close match. The same can be said for Hulsey-Vincent who was edged in an even closer match 15-14 by Anna Gooch.

Denman, also a sophomore, had a dominant showing in the opening round. In the “A” pool, she went 9-2, yet hit a wall against MIT’s Jes­sica Li. Freshman Mirit Rutishauser also had a strong showing as she went 6-5 in the “B” pool.

Overall, a very strong performance from both the male and female Brewers. “There has been a steady progression for the team since the beginning of the year till now. We are all so much more skilled, not only as athletes but also as individuals and people. For a team to win is impressive, but to also have its athletes bloom into leaders…that’s where the value is,” said Racek.

Hoping to continue this momentum and ex­pand on the great season, the Brewers will head to the US Collegiate Squad Championships next Sunday morning at 9 a.m. at Princeton University.

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