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Fencers' Success Places Team At Top of Conference Rankings

By Evangelos Efstathiou
Team Member

Six members of the MIT fencing team and one of the assistant coaches participated in a national competition in Louisville, Ky., from January 1518. Both the men's and women's teams, and all three weapons, were represented.

This tournament was one of four North American Cups that the U.S. Fencing Association hosts each year. Results in this tournament are used for national rankings, and for determining U.S. representatives in international competition.

This was the first national tournament for four of the fencers, who shined in their debuts. Curtis Wade III '01 and Michael Krypel '01, both varsity epeeists, won two and three bouts, respectively. Wade finished 158th, in a field of over 200 competitors, after a close elimination fight. Krypel finished 119th.

Jade Joan Hon '01 and Dianne Allen '01, both women's foil fencers, had made it out of their pools and advanced to the elimination rounds. Hon finished 98th, and Allen 86th, with well over a hundred fencers competing.

Krypel, Allen, and Hon also fenced in the junior event.

MIT epee assistant coach Kari Backes, ranked 37th nationally, also fenced in Louisville and placed 53rd out of 129 fencers.

In women's sabre, Caroline Purcell '00 fought her way to the finals of the Open, placing fifth. Purcell rose to seventh place in the U.S. national rankings, and is close to qualifying for the World Team which will compete in the World Championships. She also won the junior event, and is ranked first in the country in under-20 women's sabre.

MIT men's sabre fencer Evangelos Efstathiou '00 advanced to the round of 48 after going 41 in pool bouts and winning in the second round of eliminations. In the round of 48, he defeated Keeth Smart, who went on to win the Cup, 54. Efstathiou placed 40th out of 115 fencers, joining teammate Brian Bower '99 in the national rankings. Efstathiou is ranked 67th nationally, and Bower is ranked 36th.

All nationally ranked fencers are eligible to compete in the U.S. Fencing Association Division I National championships, held in April. Currently, Purcell, Backes, Bower, and Efstathiou will be competing. Bower and Efstathiou also plan to fence in the team event that weekend.

MIT fencers continued to lead the Northeastern Fencing Conference with wins in the final meet of the year, held at Smith College on Saturday. The women's epee and men's foil squads led the way, with stellar performances to defeat long standing rivals Boston College and Brown University.

The men's team started the day defeating Tufts 198, led by Brian Bower '99 and the sabre squad. Bower was untouched against his opponents, winning all three of his bouts 50. The men's team lost to Brandeis in the second round, despite a strong showing by epeeist Matt DuPlessie '99 and Bower who came a close call away from sweeping Brandeis.

In the third round, MIT outclassed rival Boston College, winning 198. While the epee squad sapped BC's strength, crushing even the best epeeists, MIT sabre defeated BC for the first time since the fall of 1997. Bower, the 1997 New England Champion, defeated 1998 New England Champion Luke Mountain, by a score of 51. However, the squad of the day proved to be foil, with Andre Van Horn '01, Oliver Chadwick '02, and Ben Vandiver '00 routing BC bout after bout. Vandiver finished the match with three straight touches to beat BC's top starter.

The men's team finished 31 (113 overall), with a thrilling 14-13 victory over Brown. Caroline Purcell '02 of the sabre squad swept, keeping MIT close, but MIT's fate was in the hands of the men's foil squad. As the day was drawing to an end, foil was handed a challenge: MIT could not win unless the foil squad won three of the remaining four bouts. In this effort, Ali Ibrahim '01 started the ball rolling, setting up the stage for Van Horn and Vandiver to clinch the victory.

During the men's bouts an exhibition women's sabre tournament was held, with Kit Lennox '02, Jen McKeehan '01, and Cappy Gray '00 participating. Facing opponents from the same schools as the mens teams, McKeehan tied for third in only her second women's sabre tournament, and Gray placed fifth in her first exhibition. Lennox was eliminated in the round of 16 by McKeehan, finishing 13th.

The women's team was not to be outdone. Despite injuries, they showed their strength by going undefeated for the day. Captain Aimee Wiltz '99, Epee Squad leader Nora Szasz '99, and epeeist Jessica Sandland '99 led the team.

In the first match, against Tufts, both schools stayed within two bouts of the lead until the very end, when MIT pulled ahead to win 1715. This was the closest match of the day. The women beat both Boston College and Brown by a score of 2012, and defeated Smith College 2210.

The women's epee squad proved to be unbeatable, winning 115, 1214, and even 133 against BC. Szasz and Sandland finished the day with only one loss apiece, and both Sara Perry '99 and Sylwia Daniszewska '00 had strong performances. In foil, Wiltz led the way, dropping only three of her 16 bouts of the day. Foilist Beth Manoogian '99 had an impressive performance against Smith, winning three of the four bouts.

Bouts against schools such as Brown, Boston College, Brandeis, and Tufts count for NCAA Regional and National qualifiers. MIT's upcoming meet is at home, against powerhouses University of Pennsylvania, New York University, University of North Carolina, Duke University, and Yeshiva University, on Sunday.