(Fairfield, CT) - The elite of collegiate fencing came to the Pitt Center on Sunday to compete at the SHU Invitational. The field included last years NCAA Champions Penn State and former NCAA Champions Princeton, Harvard, and NYU, in addition to strong Vassar and UNC Chapel Hill squads. The Pioneers defeated Vassar 17-10 and NYU 15-12 while losing to Penn State 18-9, Harvard 17-10, Princeton 16-11, and UNC Chapel Hill 17-10. The Pioneers finish the fall semester segment of their season at 10-5, which is the best record at the midway point ever for the men's team.
The team was led on the day by its three stoppers in Justin Dion in epee (12-6), Stuart Holmes in foil (10-7), and Marty Williams in saber (12-6). The foil squad also had a great performance by senior Will Puglisi, who was inserted into the starting lineup in the middle of the day and went on to a 7-1 mark, including a critical win against NYU and a 3-0 performance against Vassar. In saber, Ryan O'Halloran was another important late addition to the starting lineup and he responded with a win against NYU and two wins against Vassar. Freshman saber starter Peter Freiss also had a solid day (8-10), and senior Nate Quigley in epee and sophomore Victor Nieto in foil both had six wins each.
"I was pretty pleased with our performance on the day," said head coach Dr. Thomas Vrabel. "A lot of preparation goes in to hosting a big event like this and you are never sure how the team will respond to the distractions involved in setting up and preparing for the event. We still are struggling with getting quickly out of the box , and this showed in our opening loss to a solid but beatable UNC squad. I was not happy with the team's intensity and aggressiveness in the match and I let them know about it in emphatic terms. Some may not have liked the chewing out they received, but they responded to it and fenced at a higher level the rest of the day. This showed in the wins against NYU and Vassar where we came out strong in the first round and maintained the lead through the matches. Our strong efforts against Penn State, Harvard and Princeton were the best that we have ever had against these teams. Last year we went 0-6 at this meet and our athletes were not sure that they could compete at this level. They came in this year with more experience and a league championship under their belts and their attitude and confidence level has improved greatly. The target I set for the team was a 12-3 record for the fall semester. We just fell short at 10 and 5, but this is still by far the best start to a season that we have had. We have battled through some tough injuries and many fencers who have stepped in to the starting lineup have responded well. Overall, I am pretty happy with where we stand right now. "
The Pioneers will be back in action on January 22nd and 23rd at the Philadelphia Invitational where UPenn, Johns Hopkins, Duke and NJIT will be among their opponents.