(Amherst, MA) - The Sacred Heart University Men's Fencing Team completed their mission of a third consecutive undefeated Northeast Fencing Conference season and a conference title on Saturday at the University of Massachusetts. The Pioneers defeated Dartmouth 22-5, Tufts 23-4, UMASS Amherst 25-2, Boston College 16-11, and Vassar College 19-8. Leading the team on the day was team captain Stuart Holmes, who went a perfect 13-0. Other Pioneers who turned in outstanding performances include the freshman foil duo of Andrew Holmes (10-1) and Jonathan Jacovino (13-2), the epee duo of Justin Dion and Mike Fenech (both at 13-2), and saber All-American Marty Williams (13-1).
The critical match of the day for the Pioneers was against the BC Eagles. While being out of the championship race with two losses, the Eagles were focused on being spoilers and ruining SHU's bid for a third consecutive undefeated season. In an intense and closely fought first round, the Pioneers jumped out to a 5-4 lead on the back of two wins each from foil and epee. The lead was widened to 10-8 SHU after two rounds. A win from Justin Dion against BC's Albert Starshak in the final epee round meant that the Pioneers needed to split the remaining six foil and saber bouts to clinch the victory. Wins by Tommy Gerrity and Marty Williams in saber meant that the foil squad needed only one win to secure the win. This was taken care of by freshman Andrew Holmes, who defeated BC's Patrick Riley to win the match.
"This was a day where all the hard work of the past six months all came together for us," comments head coach Dr. Thomas Vrabel. "The team once again was the first one in the gym, the first team to warm up, and the first team to warm up after the lunch break. Stuart Holmes was absolutely fantastic both as a leader and as an athlete today. Everyone was focused and just would not be denied. Boston College put up an incredible effort and we had to be at our best to defeat them today. I give them a lot of credit. They were up for us but we met their challenge with unbelievable team spirit."
This closed out impressive league careers for seniors Marty Williams and Justin Dion. With their performances on Saturday both athletes earned first-team all-league honors for the fourth consecutive year. Also joining Williams and Dion garnering first-team honors will be juniors Stuart Holmes in foil and Mike Fenech in epee.
"We knew going in to the season that the competition from Brown and Boston College would be strong this year," said Dr. Vrabel. "With four first year starters, we did not know how these fencers would adapt to the pressure of collegiate competition. They all rose to the challenge and gave the program its best dual meet record ever with a 20-4 season. We will celebrate for about ten minutes at Monday's practice, then get back to our goal of making the NCAA Championship round for the third year in a row. We still have work to do."
The Pioneers are back in action in two weeks where they will be competing on Saturday, February 25th at Vassar where they will be competing at the New England Intercollegiate Fencing Conference Tournament and on Sunday , February 26th at NYU in the National Collegiate Squad Championship.