Women’s Sabre Wins At Duke InvitationalBy Curtis Wade III
The women’s sabre squad led the Engineers last weekend at the Duke Invitational, winning the individual squad trophy for the first time. The sabre squad was 29-7 in the round-robin style meet against Duke University, University of North Carolina, Johns Hopkins University and Brandeis University.
Jennifer A. McKeehan G posted a team-high 11-1 individual record. Caroline M. Purcell ’02 finished 10-2, despite fencing left-handed due to an injury, and Priscilla Del Castillo ’04 went 8-4.
A rash of injuries and scheduling conflicts have plagued the entire women’s team late in the season. Fielding a worn-down team, the women’s squad lost to healthier Duke and University of North Carolina teams, but still soundly defeated Brandeis and Johns Hopkins. The 2-2 finish at Duke gave the women a 17-5 (12-5 NCAA) record for the season. Combined with last year’s 18-3 (13-3 NCAA) finish, the women have set the mark for New England schools.
The women beat Harvard and Cornell this year, the only schools beside current national champions St. John’s University to hand them losses last season. The victory over Harvard was especially important as it allowed the women to complete an eight-victory sweep of New England rivals Brown, Boston College, Brandeis, Harvard and Wellesley. The 17-5 mark also reflects the addition of Penn State and the University of Pennsylvania to this year’s schedule. Penn State is currently second in the country and had been national champions for five straight years. The University of Pennsylvania, currently ranked seventh, usually averages fourth or fifth in the country.
Women’s squad faces top teams
Despite the prestigious fencing programs of their opponents, the women went into their Feb. 3 match undaunted as they took on Penn State, the University of Pennsylvania, New York University, and Cornell. The pleasant surprise of the day came when epeeist Jennifer R. Lue ’03 defeated all the fencers from Cornell, the University of Pennsylvania, and NYU before being subbed out against Penn State.
Foilist Susannah M. Dorfman ’05, coming off a 12-0 rampage at the previous meet, and sabre star McKeehan both finished 9-3. McKeehan and Dorfman both swept NYU and Cornell and took two bouts apiece against Penn State.
The women defeated NYU in the first round. Despite solid outings by epee and sabre, the University of Pennsylvania foil squad proved too much to handle as the women lost 10-17 overall. In the next round they gained revenge for last year’s 13-14 heartbreaker against Cornell, by convincingly defeating them 17-10. Against Penn State foilists, Christine A. Yee ’03, Danielle M. Morse ’02 and Dorfman went 4-5, but the Nittany Lions defeated the Engineers 8-19.
Sabre squad finishes strong
Women’s sabre has been virtually unstoppable this year. Having two-time NCAA medallist Purcell around has certainly helped, but del Castillo and McKeehan have turned Purcell from standout star to just another member of a well-rounded squad. Aside from losses to the top two teams in the country, St. John’s University and Penn State, the sabre squad was 14-1 coming into the Duke Invitational. Even including the top schools, the sabre girls boast a phenomenal 75 percent winning percentage. MIT’s next-best squads, men’s epee, sabre and foil, each have 56 percent winning percentages.
Team heads into championships
With the close of the regular season, the women look forward to continuing their success against both regional and national opponents. Next weekend the women travel to Brown University for the New England Conference Championships, where they plan to defend their Championship title. If the season is any indicator the women not only look to take the team event, but to bring home most of the medals in the Individual events.
Women’s sabre also hopes to repeat their Best Squad performance last year. Joining Dorfman, the sabre squad, Yee, Lue, and Morse, Natalie E. Cusano ’02 (epee) and Michelle A. Nadermann ’03 (epee) qualified for NCAA Regionals, where they have a chance to compete for an invitation to Nationals.