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Fencing Team Dominates Meet

Purcell, Bras Lead Way in Sweep of Five New England Schools

By Curtis Wade III


MIT’s fencing teams began their seasons on November 17 with victories over Harvard University and other New England Fencing Intercollegiate Conference (NEIFC) opponents.

Caroline M. Purcell ’02 and Rafael E. Bras ’02 remained undefeated on saber and led the way as the Engineers tallied victories over UMass Boston, University of New Hampshire, Harvard, Wellesley, and Boston University. The victories over Harvard and Wellesley, in addition to improving the Engineer’s NFC status, count as NCAA victories and improve the men’s record to 4-0 (1-0 NCAA) and the women’s to 5-0 (2-0).

Men weather Harvard attack

The first two schools, UMass and UNH, proved an easy warmup for the men’s pending showdown with Harvard. In team format, three fencers from each squad--epee, foil and saber--fence each of the opposing school’s respective fencers, for a total of nine bouts per squad and 27 bouts per school.

The Engineers defeated UMass by the comfortable margin of 19-8, and UNH by the blistering score of 25-2. Bras’ 3-0 sweep of UMass was matched by 3-0 efforts by Douglas J. Quattrochi ’04 and Galen E. Pickard ’05. Saber and foil finished 7-2.

Against UNH, the saber squad swept 9-0 and both foil and epee finished 8-1. Bras continued his undefeated rampage through the competition, supported by the 2-0 and 3-0 efforts of fellow saber fencers Richard D. Burstein ’02 and Jason M. Levine ’03. William F. MacFarlane ’05 and Vincent Chen ’05 went undefeated in foil, while Matthew R. Levy ’04 joined Pickard in defeating all of UNH’s epee fencers.

The high point of the day came as the men faced a Harvard team that had steadily narrowed the Engineers’ margin of victory from 21-6 three years ago to 14-13 and 15-12 in the past two years. With the long tradition of MIT dominance over Harvard on the line, intensity surrounded every bout as the race for 14 wins began.

Harvard took a slight lead in the first round as Coach Jarek Koniusz looked on, every bit as tense as his fencers. MIT gained the advantage early in the second round, and never looked back.

Team captain Oliver J. Chadwick ’02 (foil) and epee squad leader Neal K. Devaraj ’02 joined Bras in going undefeated. 2-1 efforts by MacFarlane, Levine and Burstein, along with additional victories by Chen and epeeist Curtis Wade III ’01, clinched the 17-10 win.

Keyed to a higher pitch after all the excitement, the Engineers pummeled BU 24-3. Anthony P. Reinen ’03, Bras, Levine, Burstein, MacFarlane, Chen, Quattrochi and Levy vanquished all their opponents, as saber and foil finished 9-0. The saber squad boasted the best record for the day, finishing a combined 32 and 4.

Women sweep opponents

Not to be shown up by their male counterparts, women’s saber put together a mind-boggling 41-4 squad performance. Jennifer A. McKeehan G and Priscilla del Castillo ’04 added 13-2 performances to Purcell’s 15-0 romp as the squad swept UNH, Wellesley and BU, and finished 7-2 against UMass and Harvard. 12-1 and 10-2 outings by Susannah M. Dorfman ’05 and Clarissa Y. Smith ’04 led the foil and epee squads to outstanding 36-9 and 35-10 records.

The women’s first two opponents, UMass and UNH, posed little trouble as MIT posted 23-4 and 25-2 victories. Christine A. Yee ’03, and Lisa M. Bell ’04 added three victories apiece and Danielle M. Morse ’02 two more as the women foilists swept the UMass squad. Epee matched saber’s 7-2 finish as Smith went undefeated and Michelle A. Nadermann ’03 contributed two more wins.

Foil and epee both posted 8-1 marks which led to saber’s sweep of UNH. Morse and Dorfman went 3-0 and Natalie E. Cusano ’02 and Jennifer R. Lue ’03 added two wins apiece as Smith posted another 3-0 record.

The women showed little signs of stopping as they rolled over their presumably tougher NCAA opponent Wellesley by a score of 19-8. Dorfman, Yee and Morse went 2-1 and Nadermann led the epee squad with a 2-1 performance.

The Engineers next faced a Harvard team that had won two of the last three meetings, including one of the rare losses in last year’s amazing 18-3 season. Undaunted, MIT rose to the challenge, quickly establishing their role as steamroller rather than underdog, handing the Crimson a 19-8 defeat. Dorfman and Smith went 3-0 and were supported by Cusano and Nadermann’s 2-1 efforts.

The women ended the day by picking BU apart with a 26-1 victory, showing again why they are the reigning New England Champions. Purcell, Del Castillo, McKeehan, Bell, Dorfman, Cusano, Lue and Nadermann all went 3-0.

MIT faces challenging matches

Under Coach Koniusz, MIT fencing has earned a healthy respect in recent years. Top schools such as St. John’s, Penn State (National Champions five of the last six years), and University of Pennsylvania (perennial top 10 finisher) now routinely schedule meets with MIT. Consequently, MIT has one of the toughest schedules in the country, and fences over 20 times a year. Some schools (like Yale) schedule only 8 opponents.

Both teams travel to Brandeis tomorrow to square off against local rivals Brandeis and Boston College as well as Brown, Vassar, and the defending National Champion St. John’s team. MIT finished 12th in the nation last year, their highest finish since the NCAA went to a combined men’s and women’s format during the 1989-1990 season. This finish placed them ahead of every other Division III fencing program in the nation, and above half the Division I programs, including Brown. Barring St. John’s, and one close loss to Brown two years ago, the women have won every meeting against these schools in the last three years. The men look to avenge last year’s narrow losses to BC and continue their winning streak against a Brandeis team that has split the last eight meetings.