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Fencing: Women sweep field at first NFC contest

By Jonathan Steinberg
On November 24, 2009

In its first team meet of the season, the men's and women's fencing teams headed to the first Northeastern Conference Meet for bouts against Sacred Heart University, the University of New Hampshire, Boston University, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Wellesley College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The men struggled in the meet but managed to come away with a winning record of 3-2, while the women's team highlighted the event with a perfect record of 6-0.The women's team fenced a near perfect meet. The squad won five of its six matches by 11 bouts or more.

Against Sacred Heart, the women won 19-8. The team was victorious against New Hampshire and BU with a score of 22-5, and in its contests against UMass-Amherest and MIT, Brandeis won 20-7 and 14-13, respectively.

MIT gave the women their hardest match of the day. The Engineers came out with a strong team, but the Judges managed to outfence them by one bout.

Coach Bill Shipman noted the performances of épée Emma Larkin '11 and sabre Anna Hanley '11, both of whom did exceptionally well in their bouts. Larkin went 14-2 in her bouts, while Hanley went 13-1 in her contests.

Hanley was pleased with her individual performance but noted that she should have gone undefeated.

"I think I performed well," Hanley said. "I lost one bout, but I could have definitely won that one. Overall, it was a good day for the women's team and me."

Shipman attributes the women's success to the skills the coaching staff stresses during practice.

"We stress agility, footwork and tactics," he said. "We focus on different skills for different people depending on their strengths and weaknesses."

As for the team's performance, Hanley was encouraged, especially by her first-year teammates.

"We are definitely in a transitional year in terms of the women's team," Hanley said. "I think we lost nine starting women last year. We are a new team, trying to get to know one another. We had some strong freshmen wins, especially against MIT."

On the men's side, the squad dominated in its victories and lost closely in its defeats. Against New Hampshire, the squad won 26 bouts to one, versus UMass they won 21-6 and against BU, they won 23-4.

However, it was in the two other matches where the men spoiled the opportunities that were presented to them. Against MIT, the team lost a large early lead and fell 14-13. This was the first time in at least four or five years, according to Shipman, that the squad had lost to the Engineers.

Épée Will Bedor '10 cited the MIT match, in particular, as a "wake-up call."

The team also let the match against Sacred Heart slip away, losing 15-12 to a strong and young Pioneers team. This was the first time that Sacred Heart had ever defeated the Judges in a fencing competition.

Despite the two losses, the team saw strong performances from épée Andrew Travis '10 and saber Adam Austin '11, both of whom went 8-1 in bouts.

Shipman commented on the need to improve performance for matches later in the day.

"We are not good enough to cruise through bouts," he said. "We need more intensity and focus, especially in foil and saber, and in general, we need to be more composed."

Bedor agreed with Shipman, saying that the team "needs to practice not losing focus and intensity near the end of the day following strong starts."

Both teams will compete next on Dec. 5 at the Brandeis Invitational.

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