(Cambridge, MA) - The Pioneer Men's Fencing Team began its defense of the 2010 NFC championship by once again sweeping the November matches which were held at MIT. The Pioneers defeated Brown 14-13, UNH 20-7, Brandeis 16-11, MIT 17-10, and Boston College 14-13 to finish the first half of the conference slate at 5-0.
Due to a scheduling change, Sacred Heart had to face four of its five toughest opponents on the first day of action. The Pioneers also had a bye in the first round, which meant that they had to face a tough Brown team cold in the second round. Brown started out by dominating the foil competition, taking eight out of nine from SHU. This meant that Sacred Heart had to win epee and saber by a combined 13-5 effort. That is exactly what they did, charging back from a 13-9 deficit to win the last five bouts of the match. This amazing run began with saber wins by freshman Peter Freiss and junior Marty WIlliams. The saber squad went 6-3 against Brown. The epee squad then closed the deal with a sweep by senior Nate Quigley, sophomore squad captain Jeremiah German, and junior standout Justin Dion for a 7-2 squad effort and the victory. The team then finished action before the lunch break with a solid 20-7 win over the University of New Hampshire.
The afternoon's action began with a comfortable 16-11 win over perennial power Brandeis. This time the foil squad rebounded with a 7-2 mark and epee was also strong as it went 6-3. The team was led by 3-0 efforts from Justin Dion and Ethan Patterson in the win over the Judges. They continued to roll with a balanced attack against MIT to take a 17-10 victory. In this match both foil and epee were 6-3 while saber went 5-4. Once again Justin Dion was 3-0 and two wins each were added by Jeremiah German in epee, Stuart Holmes, Ethan Patterson and Victor Nieto in foil and Peter Freiss and Marty Williams in saber.
This set up the final match of the day against a strong BC squad. The Eagles were eager to avenge last year's loss to the Pioneers and jumped out to a 5-0 start with three wins in saber and two in foil. Victor Nieto stemmed the tide with a critical foil win and the epee squad swept BC to finish the first round with the Pioneers trailing by only a 5-4 margin. The team then took charge by going 7-2 in the second round make it 11-7 SHU going in to the final round. A foil win by Ethan Patterson and saber victories from Peter Freiss and Marty Williams sealed the Pioneer victory at 14-10.
"This was an unbelievable day for us" said head coach Dr. Thomas Vrabel. "Everyone in the Conference is gunning for us this season and it is always tougher to defend a championship than it is to win one. These teams are talented and have great histories in collegiate fencing. I am sure that a lot of preseason practices were dedicated to knocking us off. The way that we clawed back against Brown and rebounded against BC was incredible. Our team just refused to lose today."
In addition to the challenge of defending a championship, Sacred Heart had to deal with two critical injuries in the starting lineup. Junior Travis Pereira was out due to a shoulder injury and was replaced by senior Nate Quigley in epee. Team captain Jim Roberts in foil tried to fight through the pain of a broken index finger on his weapon hand but was ineffective and his spot was taken over by sophomore Victor Nieto. Both Quigley and Nieto rose to the occasion and posted many crucial victories on the day. "There were many keys to our success today, but the performances of Quigley and Nieto were critical", said Vrabel. " Nate on three occasions beat the opponent's number one epee fencer in the first round and these bouts were big momentum changers. Not only was Victor as effective as the other foil starters, but his confidence and enthusiasm really helped the team's momentum. We are very fortunate to have this kind of depth on our roster"
Saturdays success was evenly divided between weapon squads with epee going 28-17, foil 27-18, and saber 26-19 on the day. As has become customary, the team was led by junior sensation Justin Dion, who only had a 5-4 loss to a BC fencer in his final bout to keep him from a perfect 14-0 day. He was ably supported by eight wins from Jeremiah German and six wins from Nate Quigley. "Justin is always our ace in the hole", said Vrabel. "The team knows that if we can just get the match into Justin's hands, we will emerge victorious. He has already won four matches for us in his career by winning the last bout of the match and has yet to come up on the losing side. I was very happy as well for Jeremiah German. He struggled last Sunday at Vassar, as did Nate Quigley. We really focused this week in practice on keeping their games simple, athletic and forceful and both fencers responded. They were big factors in our success"
The foil squad was successful across the board, with Ethan Patterson going 9-5, Victor Nieto 8-5, and Stuart Holmes 8-6. "We went up against some very strong foil competition today", said Vrabel. "I must admit I was concerned after their 8-1 effort in the first meet against Brown. This squad is very resilient and they got right back on track against UNH and went 26-10 for the rest of the day. I can't say enough about how Victor stepped in for Jim Roberts today. He has been very patient and has kept working hard while waiting for his opportunity to start. His seventh place finish at the Big One tournament told us that he was ready for the challenge."
Saber was led on the day by an excellent 10-3 effort from Marty Williams and a seven critical wins from Peter Freiss. "Saber was 8-10 in 5-4 bouts today," said Vrabel. "We will be working this week on how to flip more of those close bouts in our favor. As the year progresses and we get more experience, I am confident that we will be more successful in the close ones."
The team is back in action on Dec 5th at the Pitt Center on the Sacred Heart campus where the Pioneers will host last year's NCAA champions Penn State, Princeton, Harvard, UNC Chapel Hill, Vassar and NYU. Competition begins at 10 AM.