February 7, 2010

Pioneers Go 5-0 Saturday - Win the Northeast Fencing Conference Championship

Feb. 6, 2010

BOSTON, MA - The Sacred Heart men's fencing team completed a perfect 10-0 season sweep of the Northeast Intercollegiate Fencing Conference (NEIFC) schedule with a five-victory day at Tufts on Saturday. The Pioneers defeated Dartmouth 20-7, Tufts 22-5, UMass 24-3, Boston College 17-10 and Vassar 15-12 to win the undisputed championship in only their fourth year in conference competition.

After being in charge for the first three matches, Sacred Heart faced a determined Boston College squad that only had one loss on the season. A win for Boston College would get them a 9-1 record and a tie for the Conference Championship.

The saber competition was run first with BC jumping out to a 2-1 lead on the back of a solid win by Peter Souders over SHU's Marty Williams. Sophomore squad captain CJ Fleck then began a run that propelled the team to its victories over BC and Vassar.

Fleck's win over BC senior Malcolm Connelly ignited the team and both Williams and Fleck posted two wins to help the Pioneers trail by just one point, 5-4, going into the epee and foil bouts.

At this point that the other two weapons took charge of the match. Led by a first-round sweep of foil and two wins in epee, the Pioneers took off and dominated in a decisive 17-10 win, which was their first ever victory over the Eagles. The foil squad's trio of freshmen stars (Jared Rebeor, Ethan Patterson and Stuart Holmes) led the squad to a 7-2 record. Epee was led by Justin Dion's three wins to go 6-3 against the Eagles.

The win gave the Pioneers a share of the conference championship but they would only close the deal on a perfect season if they defeated a determined Vassar squad that had beaten them earlier in the season 14-13.

The Pioneers had a bye in the round following the win over BC and, despite a thorough warmup, came out flat against a focused Brewer team that took two epee bouts and a bout each in foil and saber to leave the Pioneers with a slim 5-4 lead after round one.

On the strength of two wins each in saber and epee, Vassar tied the match at 9-9 going in to the final stanza. Fleck again took control and won a decisive 5-1 victory over Vassar's senior team captain John Rothman. The victory propelled the saber squad to a 3-0 sweep of the final round and meant that Sacred Heart needed just two wins in the last six bouts to clinch the match and the championship.

Justin Dion stepped up to win the final bout and Stuart Holmes won a come-from-behind 5-4 victory in the first foil bout to win the match. Ethan Patterson followed with another win to make the final score 15-12.

"This is an unbelievable finish to an exciting year for the team," said head coach Dr. Thomas Vrabel. "We knew that we would be the most talented Pioneer team to date, but we started five freshmen and four sophomores for most of the season, so we definitely had our ups and downs."

"Our final record of 11-11 in NCAA competition is the best ever for the program," he continued. "This team battled all year and began to really gel at Yale last week. When we swept Columbia and NYU last Wednesday, I knew that we were ready for this challenge, but we still had two very good teams (BC and Vassar) in our way. At times over the past week each weapon squad carried the team and the focus that all the fencers showed on Saturday was fantastic. We definitely did not fence like a team of underclassmen this weekend."

Every weapon had its stars at Tufts on Saturday. Foil was dominating in not losing a single match to post a 37-8 record for the day. Rebeor was an impressive 12-1 on the day and was closely followed Patterson at 12-2 and Holmes at 10-3. Rebeor finished league competition with a 22-3 record, followed by Patterson at 22-5 and Holmes at 21-5. All three are in contention for first team all league honors.

Saber was led on the day by Williams' 13-2 mark. He was ably complimented by Fleck's 11-4 performance and a 7-7 mark from freshman Ryan O'Halloran. Williams finished the year with a 26-3 record and is in the running for both all league and fencer of the year honors.

Dion led the epee squad with a 12-3 result and was supported by Jeremiah German's 9-4 effort and Nick Negron's 7-5 performance. Dion finished conference play at 25-5 and is again in the running for first team all league status.

"To come this far in only our fourth year in the league says a lot for both the quality of our program and for the determination of our athletes," said Vrabel. "I am extremely proud of them for their intensity, their sportsmanship and their resiliency. We came from behind on several occasions against very good teams this season and all of the squads have led the way as the need arose. I look for a great end to the season at the Conference Tournament and at the NCAA Regionals."

The Pioneers will be again in action on Sunday, February 21st as Mount Holyoke College hosts the NEIFC Conference Tournament.