November 23, 2009

Pioneers Go Undefeated in Northeast Fencing Conference Action

Nov. 23, 2009

PROVIDENCE, RI - The Pioneers kicked off their Northeast Fencing Conference schedule on Saturday at Brown University and served notice to the league that they would be a force this season, winning all five matches.

There was some concern going into the weekend when sophomore epee star Travis Pereira suffered an ankle injury which kept him out of action.

"While we have improved this season, we are still very young and the loss of Pereira made our goal of going undefeated this weekend that much tougher," commented head coach Dr. Thomas Vrabel.

Freshman Jeremiah German was chosen by coaches Vrabel and Luciano to take over Pereira's spot in the starting lineup.

The day started off well with a 27-0 win over Boston University which set up the first crucial match of the day with host Brown. The Pioneers got off to fast start and led 6-3 after the first round of competition with each weapon squad posting a 2-1 record.

Brown bounced back in the second round with five wins, which left SHU with a 10-8 lead going in to the third and final round of competition. Brown had strong 2-1 performances in foil and saber which tied the match at 12-12. Senior epee squad captain Kyle Dee regained the lead for the Pioneers with a 5-2 victory over Brown senior Adam Yarnell. This left SHU needing to win one of the last two epee bouts to secure their first ever win over Brown.

Next came a battle of tall freshmen as 6'5" Jeremiah German battled Brown's 6'7" Kelly McGuire. German came in to this bout with a 2-0 record and was eager to ice the win for SHU. German fought back from a 4-2 deficit to tie the score at 4 all but McGuire came back to win 5-4.

This left the match tied and in the hands of 2009 Big One champion sophomore Justin Dion as he squared off against Brown senior David Pagliaccio. Dion (who is 6'4") used his height advantage to great effect as he secured an early 2-1 lead and then controlled the bout for a 5-2 victory.

"Our league has a very interesting mix of strength's this season," comments Vrabel. "Brandeis has a powerful epee squad, Brown has a strong veteran foil squad, and Vassar and Boston College rely on their talented saber squads to be their stoppers. SHU and MIT have good overall balance. Weapon matchups will play critical roles in deciding who wins the league championship this year."

The Pioneers came back from the lunch break with a comfortable 26-1 win over New Hampshire. This set up a critical match with an MIT team that just won a hard fought 14-13 come from behind victory against Brandeis in their previous match. SHU was able to jump out to a 7-2 first round lead and stretched the lead to 12-6 after two rounds. This seemed to take the fire out of the MIT team and Sacred Heart cruised to a 19-8 win.

The Brandeis match turned out to be a fiercely contested battle from the start. Brandeis' epee fencers swept the first round but the Pioneers matched them with a sweep of foil. Two critical saber wins by sophomores Marty Williams and CJ Fleck gave SHU a 5-4 lead after round one.

Round two was almost identical to the first round as only Jeremiah German was able to post an epee win for Sacred Heart while Stuart Holmes and Jared Rebeor won in foil. Two more saber wins (from Williams and Henry Crocker) had the Pioneers in the lead 10-8 going in to the final round.

Wins in foil from freshmen Ethan Patterson and Stuart Holmes and an epee win from Justin Dion had Sacred Heart leading 13-11 with the three saber bouts remaining.

Saber squad captain CJ Fleck ended the suspense quickly with a dominating 5-0 victory over Brandeis' Lucas Gelwarg to secure the win. A following win by Crocker made the final score 15-12 and gave Sacred Heart its inaugural win over Brandeis and a 5-0 sweep of the first half of its Northeast Fencing Conference league schedule.

Balance across the SHU lineup was responsible for the Pioneer's success. The foil team was led by the talented freshmen trio of Stuart Holmes, Ethan Patterson and Jared Rebeor, who went 11-2, 10-3 and 10-2 on the day. Saber was led by another excellent outing for Marty Williams (13-1), but it also featured the emergence of CJ Fleck (9-5) as a formidable force. The third starting saber spot was successfully shared by Crocker (5-4) and freshman Ryan O'Halloran (5-2). In epee Justin Dion was again dominant (13-2) but he was joined by the emergence of another talented freshmen in the person of Jeremiah German (9-4). Kyle Dee was also solid in going 7-4.

"I am very pleased at how the team responded not only to the disappointment of the Haverford loss last weekend but to the challenge of the loss of Travis Pereira for this competition," said Vrabel.

"We stayed focused on our mission all day and it showed with our performance. The Haverford loss in the way that it happened might have been just the thing to wake us up not only to our need for intensity and focus but to the fact that we do have the ability to step up to a level of performance that we only aspired to in the past."

"While we are not yet to the point of challenging against top ten teams, we have the people in place to make this a future reality - if we want it bad enough. We are entering a very exciting time for fencing at Sacred Heart."

The Pioneers are back in action on Sunday, November 29th at Harvard with matches against Harvard, Princeton, NYU, Vassar, UNC Chapel Hill and defending NCAA Champions Penn State.