Fencing wins big at Big One Invitational

Contributing Writer
Thursday, November 11, 2010

The fencing team returned triumphantly from its first tournament of the season, winning the Big One Invitational with 10 medals overall.

The Big One, a single-elimination, individual tournament that took place on Nov. 6 at Smith College, was crowded with Bears who medaled after finishing in the top eight, including five men and women in the top three in their events.

Kathryn Hawrot ’14 took first in women’s foil, finishing just ahead of teammate Avery Nackman ’13. Cory Abbe ’13 gave a fantastic showing in women’s epee with a second place finish. Rounding out the women’s team, Caitlin Taylor ’13 achieved a third place win in women’s saber.

Ben McDonald ’14 also won third in his category, men’s epee. Every other category at the tournament featured at least one Brown competitor in one of the top eight spots.

Scott Phillips ’11 gained third in men’s foil, beating out Massachusetts Institute of Technology sophomore Daniel Levine in a touch-and-go match that had Phillips down 9-3 with four minutes left.

“My timing wasn’t working, so I had to be more aggressive,” Phillips said, referring to his usual defensive style of parrying and waiting for his opponents’ attacks.

Phillips’ change in approach helped him bring the score to 9-8, but his opponent then got the next five touches and kept the lead out of Phillips’ hands. Phillips was within one point of a loss.

“If I had made one simple mistake, he would have won the bout,” he said.

But Phillips rallied in the last minute and took the final five touches against Levine, winning 15-14.

“It was by far my biggest comeback ever,” he said.  

Phillips’ previous bout had been with Jonathan Yu ’11, one of the team captains, whom he beat out in a close bout 15-13 in the third round. Yu described the bout as “predictable,” saying the teammates “know each others’ styles.” Yu is a more aggressive fencer, according to Phillips.

Phillips confessed that these two hard-fought matchups “probably wore me out for my last bout” against freshman Patrick Riley of Boston College.

Though Yu dropped to 16th after his match with Phillips, he had in the previous bout bested one of the tournament’s top fencers, sophomore Stuart Holmes of Sacred Heart, the first seed at the invitational. Yu defeated him in a close match, 15-13, after a series of back-and-forth ties and lead changes.

Women’s foil did well across the board, advancing three medalists, including the event winner Hawrot. When Hawrot and Nackman were asked about their match in the finals, both agreed that there was no animosity between them.

Nackman, who won the tournament last year, said that their final bout “was not extremely angsty” and “not as competitive” since Brown would come out on top either way. Hawrot noted that they were talking to each other as friends before the bout started.

“If we lose to anyone, it’s good for it to be ourselves,” Hawrot said.

Two walk-on members of the women’s team, Andrea Sassenrath ’14 and Lauren Rojas ’14, made their collegiate fencing debuts, placing 39th and 55th after one bout each in the elimination round.

Rojas said she had mostly played team sports before coming to Brown. But she still managed 15 touches in her qualifying matches, pitting her against Tracy Dion of the University of Florida in the first elimination round. Dion went on to finish 10th overall.

Sassenrath, though she said being at her first tournament was  “intimidating,” won three out of six of her qualifying matches and went on to face Monica Herrera, also of Florida, who later took 26th place.

Head Coach Atilio Tass said that though the results do not change the team’s NCAA ranking, he thought the tournament was a great chance for team members to work on their personal tactics and strategy.

Most of the team members agreed that this tournament was a useful preparation for the rest of the year. Hawrot said it was “a good lead-in” and Nackman called it “a warm-up” for the 2010–11 campaign.