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Men See Tourney As Early Test of NEIFC

By Philip W. Miller

The men’s fencing team began its season as defending New England Intercollegiate Fencing Conference (NEIFC) champions by traveling last Saturday to Smith College to fence in the Big One. MIT fenced admirably, with two third-place finishes and two more in the final eight.

The Big One is an annual individual tournament which kicks off the NEIFC season. Fencers compete round robin in five to seven person pools, in five-touch bouts. Based upon their performance, they are ranked and fence fifteen touch direct elimination bouts until only one remains victorious.

Epee shows promise

The epee squad was hit hard this year by a combination of graduation, study abroad, and injury. Fortunately, the MIT team proved to be as deep as they were talented, calling upon squad leader Paul J. Thordarson ’01, Neal K. Devaraj ’02, Brendan P. Miller ’02 and Alberto F. Viscarra ’02 to fill some rather large shoes.

Thordarson ripped through his pool with a 5-0 record and a +12 indicator, good enough to rank him initially 3rd. After crushing one opponent in DEs, he lost a close bout, 15-9, to a tough Tufts epeeist, placing him 9th overall. Close behind was Devaraj, who left pools with a strong 4-2 mark. In a thrilling match in the round of 16, he faced Boston College’s Jeff Marston and fenced him to a 14-14 tie. Another two simultaneous actions followed (i.e. both fencers get a touch), until Marston stepped in with a strong parry to eliminate Devaraj 15-14. Marston went on to win the competition, while Devaraj finished 15th. Miller and Viscarra also showed flashes of good things to come in their first collegiate competitions, placing twenty-second and thirty-seventh respectively.

Sabre inspired by fallen teammate

Sabre is expecting big things this year. Despite the graduation of NCAA Div. I National qualifier Brian Bower ’99, who is staying on as an assistant coach, starters Evangelos L. Efstathiou ’00 and NEIFC regular season champion Phil W. Miller ’01 return. Joining Efstathiou and Miller would be a healthy Rafael E. Bras ’02 and the much-improved Richard D. Burstein ’02 as substitute.

Unfortunately, Burstein may get his chance earlier than expected. While warming up for the Big One, Bras sprained his ankle, which will keep him out for one to two weeks. Bras made the round of 8 in this tournament last year.

Miller rolled over all five opponents in his pool by a combined 25-4 to claim the number one seed. In DEs, he beat his first three opponents by a combined 45-12 to enter the round of four. There, he faced the very quick Mike Topper of Brandeis University who proved to be too much, defeating Miller 15-7, who ended up third overall.

Efstathiou also had a solid competition, sweeping his pool to emerge ranked sixth. He easily won his first two DE bout before meeting Tim Morehouse of Brandeis in round 8. Morehouse, a perennial league powerhouse who finished sixth in the NCAA last year, defeated Efstathiou 15-6, and then went on to win the competition. Burstein rounded out the squad with a fifteenth place finish after a loss to the aptly named Luke Mountain of Boston College.

Four foilists in top ten

The foilists, who are returning their top four fencers this year from strong seasons, may be the team’s strongest squad. Benjamin J. Vandiver ’00, Ali H. Ibrahim ’01 and Andre D. Van Horn ’01 all finished in the top eight in last year’s New England Championships, combining to be the number one foil squad. More impressively, they did it without their top fencer, Oliver J. Chadwick ’02, who was highly ranked in Britain before coming to MIT and missed most of last season with a hand injury.

All four came into the Big One hoping to replicate their impressive performances last year. Chadwick opened strong, going 4-1 in his pool. In the round of 16, he unfortunately ran into his teammate Van Horn, whom he defeated 15-8. Van Horn swept his pool and finished ninth. Chadwick easily beat the Boston College A strip Rob Cutler in the round of eight, before losing a heart breaker to Greg Shea of BC, 15-14. He eventually placed third. Vandiver crushed his pool by a 25-5 mark and swept into the round of 8, where he also faced Shea. Down 8-12, Vandiver pulled it back to 13-13, only to lose the final two touches and end up sixth. Ibrahim also fared well, going 4-1 in his pool and finishing 10th.

The perfect warm-up

“Overall, I was very pleased with how things went,” said Coach Jarek Konuisz. “The division is stronger than last year, and our team fared well against that strength. We used this well as the perfect warm-up to focus our minds for a long and exciting season.”

MIT’s next meet will be a home one held in Johnson tomorrow. They will face Brown University, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Dartmouth College and Boston University.