(New York, NY) - The Pioneers traveled to NYU's Cole Athletic Complex Wednesday to face Columbia and NYU and beat two of the most storied programs in Collegiate Fencing. With a combined 25 NCAA Championship titles between them (Columbia 13, NYU 12), the Lions and Violets are truly among the elite in the sport. Leading the Pioneers on the day were Marty Williams with five wins and Jim Roberts and Justin Dion with four wins apiece. These two concluding victories give Sacred Heart a dual meet record of 16-9, which is the program's best season ever. This is an improvement on their 13-12 mark from last year.
The afternoon started with the match against Columbia, where the Pioneers were down 5-4 after the first round. SHU came on strong in the second round with seven victories to make the score 12-6 Pioneers with 9 bouts remaining. Saber led the way with a 3-0 sweep in this round. Wins in the third round by Sean Vilar in saber, team captain Jim Roberts and Victor Nieto in foil, and Justin Dion in epee clinched a 15-12 win.
"This was a great win for us today," said head coach Dr. Tom Vrabel. "Columbia added several very talented freshmen to their roster this season and we knew that beating them for the second straight year would be a real challenge. While the entire team did well, three key wins stand out. Roberts' win over Pensler was a major turning point in round two and his 3-0 sweep of the Lions was just awesome. Jeremiah German's win over Leahy in the second round and Justin Dion's win over Hadzic in the third round were also critical. On paper, we should not have won this match. I am very glad that our fencers don't care about the reputations of their opponents. They just go out and fence hard all the time"
After the win over Columbia, Sacred Heart came out strong against NYU and took a 5-4 lead after the first round on the strength of a 3-0 sweep in saber and two wins in epee. The Pioneers kept the pressure up with another five victories in round two to make it 10-8 with nine bouts to go. Sacred Heart sealed the victory with Peter Freiss' saber win to make the score 14-12. A final win by Marty Williams in saber made the final score 15-12.
"The win over NYU was another great overall team effort for us," said Dr. Vrabel. "While two of our A strip fencers (Holmes in foil and Dion in epee) did not have their best performances, they were ably picked up by Marty Williams' sweep in saber and by the two-win performances of Freiss and Vilar in saber, and German and Quigley in epee. Marty Williams is once again at the top of his game and was only one touch away from sweeping all his bouts tonight. Sean Vilar is gaining confidence since taking over for Ryan O'Halloran (ankle injury) and his win against Columbia and two wins against NYU were big for us today. I just can't say enough about how Jim Roberts has come on at the end of the season. He has always had great athletic ability but confidence issues have plagued him over his career. Since the Yale meet he has just been exceptional and his strong win over Pensler (Columbia) shows that he can now challenge the best foilists in collegiate fencing."
The Pioneers are back in action on Sunday, February 27th when they will split the squad to participate in two events. Saber and Foil squads will be sent to compete at the inaugural Collegiate Weapon Squad National Championship at NYU, while squads in all three weapons will represent Sacred Heart as they defend their New England Intercollegiate Fencing Association Championship at Mount Holyoke. Both events will begin at 9 AM.