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Fencing Does Well at ‘Big One’

Purcell, Dorfman, MacFarlane Take Gold in Respective Events

By Curtis Wade III


MIT showed incredible depth and balance in last Sunday’s opening tournament of the season. Traditionally the first meet of the year, the New England Intercollegiate Fencing Conference (NEIFC) “Big One” offers a first look at the opponents MIT faces during the year.

The Big One begins with an initial round of pools determining the seeding into a single elimination bracket. Caroline M. Purcell ’02 (sabre), Susannah M. Dorfman ’05 (foil) and William F. MacFarlane ’02 (foil) won their respective weapons.

Neal K. Devaraj ’02 (epÉe) and Jason M. Levine ’03 (sabre) added bronze medals as four other fencers finished in the top eight for their weapons. Several fencers with only a month of experience made strong showings and many returning fencers showed marked improvement over previous performances.

The day’s events speak well for the women’s team to defend their position as NEIFC champions and for the men’s team to reclaim the NEIFC title they’ve held for two of the last three years. MIT travels to Brown College on November 17 to begin the NEIFC team circuit.

Women win two of three events

In the first event of the day, women’s sabre, MIT showed its depth when novice fencer Zhejuan Lu ’05 went 2-3 in pools before being eliminated in the round of 64.

Susan A. Juan ’02 came within a touch of advancing to the round of 32, suffering a heartbreaking 14-15 defeat.

Sasha R. Manoohsingh ’03 faced Juan’s opponent in the next round, exacting a 15-7 revenge on behalf of her fallen teammate. Manoohsingh, who finished 30th last year, went 5-1 in pools and finished in 12th place.

Reigning women’s national champion, and winner of last year’s Big One, Purcell had little trouble remaining undefeated in her pool. Purcell went on to win the Big One again, bringing home the first gold medal for the women’s team.

Women’s epee had early success in the pools, going a combined 16-4 as Crystal Shih ’04, Natalie E. Cusano ’02, Michelle A. Nadermann ’03, and Jennifer A. Lue ‘03 all finished 4-1, earning them byes into the round of 32. Shih dropped her bout in the round of 32. Nadermann and Cusano won their first direct elimination bouts before falling in the round of 16. Cusano narrowly missed making the eight when she forced a bout where she was down 6-12 to a score of 13-14 before losing the final touch. Lue sailed through her first two direct elimination matches despite equipment problems. She was defeated in the round of eight and finished in 7th place.

Women’s foil mirrored the sabre squad in depth. Novice Diane L. Christoforo ’05 went 2-4 in pools and won her first direct elimination match before losing in the round of 32.

Lisa M. Bell ’04, and Danielle M. Morse ’02 (who finished 4-1 in pools) also fell in the round of 32.

Christine A. Yee ‘03, who finished 17th last year, went 5-1 in her pools. She advanced through some close bouts to the round of eight before losing a bout 8-11 when time ran out. Yee finished 6th.

Seeded first at the beginning of the day, Dorfman handled her pools with ease, going 6-0 with only 5 touches total scored against her. Her path through the direct elimination was relatively smooth until she found herself down 12-14 in the round of 16. Her confidence tested, Dorfman pulled herself together and scored the next three points and went on to win her final bouts by the decisive margins of 15-3, 15-10 and 15-7.

Men boast five of the top 15

EpÉe began with a strong showing for the men’s team. Squad leader Devaraj and veteran Curtis Wade III ’02 (returning from a two-year absence due to an ACL injury) swept their pools, earning initial seedings of 3rd and 5th respectively.

Matthew R. Levy ’04 went 3-2, good enough for second in his pool and a 15th ranked seeding.

Newcomer Farhan I. Merali ’05 acquitted himself well, including scoring three touches against the eventual silver medalist. He lost his first direct elimination match 8-15 against a much taller and more experienced opponent. Devaraj had a relatively easy run through the direct elimination bracket until the round of 4 when he lost a close bout 12-15 to a perennial powerhouse from Brown.

Levy, who earned a bye and then won his first direct elimination match, had already been eliminated in the round of 16 by the same fencer.

Wade quickly defeated his first opponent before narrowly winning his second direct elimination match 15-12 in an intense bout that nearly timed out. He found himself unable to muster the energy to defeat his next opponent, losing 11-15. Wade finished 5th and Devaraj, who finished 15th last year, finished 3rd.

Men’s sabre followed the pattern for the day with several inspirational performances including a solid effort by Bryan D. Arbuszewski ’05. Fencing in his first tournament ever, Arbuszewski went 2-3 in pools and convincingly defeated his first direct elimination match opponent 15-5. His next bout was close, and he lost 10-15.

Michael P. Pihulic ’04 improved upon last year’s 32 ranking, going 4-2 in pools. In one of his losses, he managed to score 3 of the only 4 touches given up by the eventual gold medalist. He fell just short of reaching the top eight, losing an emotional bout in the round of 16, 14-15.

Like five other MIT fencers that day, Levine and Anthony P. Reinen ’03 swept their pools. One of Reinen’s victories came against last year’s champion. Reinen barreled through his direct elimination bouts, even disarming one opponent in the 16 with the force of an attack. His progress was halted by running into teammate Levine in the round of eight. Levine took the victory but could not finish off his opponent in the round of 4. Levine finished 3rd and Reinen, who was 20th last year finished 5th.

Fielding a young squad this year, men’s foil had mixed results in the opening direct elimination rounds. New fencer Jerry W. Chao ’05 won his first double elimination bout before losing in the round of 32.

Vincent Chen ’05 went 4-1 in pools but fell just short of advancing to the round of 16. Like Reinen, Douglas J. Quattrochi ’04 had the misfortune of meeting teammate MacFarlane early in the direct elimination rounds. MacFarlane would take the victory and eventually the gold.

MacFarlane’s victory came more as a surprise to his teammates and opponents then to himself. Coming to MIT as an already experienced competitor, he only allowed six touches to be scored on him during the round of pools. After defeating Quattrochie, he went on to easily defeat his remaining opponents. In the last bout of a long day, every eye in the building focused on him as he squared off against an opponent from Boston College.

“I’ve never fenced for a team before,” said MacFarlane. “I didn’t know how to handle the attention. But I was excited going into the bout because I thought my opponent would be fun to fence.”

His opponent took an early lead of 3-5. But MacFarlane went on to take 12 of the next 14 touches, soundly defeating his opponent 15-7 and converting the dream of a MIT men’s gold medalist (the first in 3 years) into a reality.

MacFarlane, Dorfman and Wade will join several other fencers this weekend--including team captains Oliver J. Chadwick ’02 (foil) and Jennifer A. Mckeehan G (sabre)--in representing MIT at the Penn State Open.