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Women Fencers Win New England Championship

By Sara Ontiveros
Team Member

Revenge was sweet for the women's fencing team last weekend. They crushed arch-rival Harvard 4-0 on the way to winning their second straight New England fencing championships last Sunday at Boston College.

The championships are held for varsity and club teams each year at the end of the season. The four fencers of each team are ranked A, B, C, or D, with A being the first varsity, B being the second varsity, and so forth. Each meeting between two teams is fenced in only four bouts:A vs. A, B vs. B, etc. The Lady Blades' lineup for Sunday was A: Felice Swapp '92, B: Sara Ontiveros '93, C: Kathryn Fricks '92, and sharing D: Ronke Olabisi '93 and Heather Klaubert '94.

The Lady Blades rolled over their opponents in the early rounds, easily defeating Tufts, Boston College, Boston University, and supposed-rival Brown University. But they ran into trouble with Wellesley College in the fifth round, dropping the C and D bouts. Swapp and Ontiveros won their bouts, however, and MIT won on touches.

MIT went on to plow through Hampshire College and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst team in the next two rounds.

It was in the eighth round that MIT went up against the University of New Hampshire team, one of the best at the championships. That did not daunt the Lady Blades, however, and they won all four of their bouts.

The ninth and final round was a showdown between MIT and Harvard. MIT's fencers wanted revenge. Harvard, which defeated MIT two weeks ago on a disputed technicality, needed a win to finish in the top three.

The Lady Blades beat Harvard 4-0 -- a satisfying victory which knocked Harvard down to fourth place in the team competition. Wellesley placed second and UN* third.

After the competition, Swapp said, "We had fun, and it's amazing what a group of non-anal fencers can do!" Swapp was referring to a bitter loss to Harvard two weeks ago, where Harvard's coach, protesting a minor rules violation, won one match by forfeit.

Junior Varsity

Meanwhile, the junior varsity were having an individual competition of their own. Representing MIT was Tzu-Yi Chen '95. Fighting hard and never giving up, Chen prevented a Wellesley junior varsity sweep of the top five spots by placing third.

The varsity individual competition followed soon after. MIT was represented by Swapp, who was undefeated in the A position, Ontiveros, undefeated in the B position, and Fricks, with only one loss in the C position. They were placed in two pools of five with the other fencers, where they fought it out to advance to the finals. Both Swapp and Ontiveros advanced to the finals, along with two fencers from UNH, one from Brown, and Mayling Birney, a sophomore from Harvard.

After the final pool was fought, Ontiveros finished in 6th place, while Swapp and Birney tied for first.

Swapp and Birney fenced off in a tie-breaker for first place. As the score stood at 4-3, Birney asked the director if Swapp had not lost a meter of ground for running off the fencing strip. With some convincing from Harvard coach Ben Zivcovic, the director decided to penalize Swapp.

Because this put Swapp off the end of the fencing strip, Harvard gained a touch. The score now stood at 4-4. Undaunted by the penalty, Swapp quickly disposed of Birney and won the New England Championships. "It was fantastic!Even people we didn't know were cheering for us!" said MIT coach Iria Romano '83.

The MIT women fencers will next compete in the Eastern Divisional Championships on March 7 and 8 at Harvard.