Strong showing at ‘Big One’ for fencers

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The fencing squad returned last Saturday from its opening tournament of the season, “The Big One,” also known as the New England Intercollegiate Fencing Conference Fall Invitational, at Smith College, with a convincing start to the season. Fielding a team of 21 fencers, Brown placed at least one fencer into the top 10 in the men’s and women’s foil and saber weapons classes.

Men’s foil fencers Jonathan Yu ’11, Scott Phillips ’11 and Adam Pantel ’10 finished first, third and fifth respectively, while women’s foil fencer Francesca Bartholomew ’11 finished third and saber fencer Deborah Gorth ‘09.5 also finished third.

Despite registering 33 fencers, Brown was only able to bring 21 fencers to the tournament. Head Coach Atilio Tass attributed this to a combination of outside commitments, sicknesses, injuries and family situations that affected his team. Brown fencers for men’s foil and women’s saber were also in the unfortunate situation of being placed in the same half of the elimination bracket, with the possibility of knocking a fellow teammate out of contention.

This happened in the case of Brown’s top finishers in men’s foil. Last year’s “Big One” foil champion, Pantel, established himself as the second overall tournament seed, demolishing his opposition in round robin play with an undefeated record of 5-0. Even so, he fell to teammate Phillips, 15-14, in the elimination rounds. Phillips’ leg cramped, forcing to call a medical time out during the match. He also came back from a 10-2 deficit to beat Pantel in a tight finish. Phillips then faced another teammate in Yu who became the eventual champion.

In women’s saber, last year’s All-American and Intercollegiate Fencing Association Champion Randy Alevi ’10 fell to eventual third-place finisher Gorth.

Though third-place foil finisher Bartholomew did not have to face any of her teammates, she said she was nonetheless disappointed by her performance since she won the event last year.

“I hope to do at least as well as last year, and I think that’s definitely within reach,” Bartholomew added of the team’s upcoming season.

Apart from the NCAA Championships in March, the “Big One” is the only individual competition of the season with the round robin format. In this unique format, fencers are placed into pools based on previously established seedings. Round robin matches are “bouts of five,” meaning that the first fencer to deliver five touches to his opponent wins the match. After the round robin, fencers are reseeded based on their winning percentage and placed into an elimination bracket. Bouts during the elimination round are to 15, according to Phillips.

Expectations at the event were high, with Brown traditionally placing well in the tournament.

Regardless of setbacks, the fencers and coach both seemed to concur that their showing at the tournament was a strong start.

“It was definitely a strong performance,” Phillips said. “Most colleges expected us to finish where we finished, and we showed them that we’re still the best in the Northeast.”

Though Brown returned with seven medals this year, as opposed to the 11 it grabbed last year, Tass commented that the team had obtained “excellent results.”

“We took our fair share (of medals),” Tass said.

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