(South Hadley, MA) - The Sacred Heart men's fencing team traveled to Mt. Holyoke College on Sunday to defend their 2010 Tournament Championship. Despite a spirited effort, the Pioneers fell just short and finished second overall to Boston College (78 wins to 73 wins). However, The SHU foils quad repeated as winners of the Silvio Vitale Cup by having the most victories of any weapon squad (27).
All weapons finished in the top three, with epee placing second and saber third. Following the squad competition, seven of the Pioneers advanced to the individual competition: Stuart Holmes, Victor Nieto and Jim Roberts in foil, Justin Dion and Jeremiah German in epee, and Marty Williams and Sean Vilar in saber. Dion, Holmes and Williams all advanced to their medal rounds where Dion won gold in epee, Holmes won silver Holmes won silver in foil, and Williams won bronze in epee.
"We knew that this tournament would be challenging for us since we were missing two key starters," said head coach Dr. Thomas Vrabel. "Nate Quigley's foot injury forced us to move CJ Fleck to epee from saber and he did a great job in the C strip. Peter Freiss had to be scratched due to a serious bronchial infection and he had to be replaced by Ryan O'Halloran, who is still recovering from a severe ankle sprain. Despite these hurdles, we were just three bouts from beating BC. The key was the epee round. Their epee took three close bouts from us and fenced very well today. If we had been able to reverse those bouts, we would have repeated as champs. BC is to be congratulated for the super overall effort they put in this yesterday."
The Pioneer foil squad was superb, posting the best record in the tournament for the second straight year. The repeat win was even more amazing considering that only Stuart Holmes returned from the last year's winning lineup.
"Stuart Holmes did a great job in getting nine A strip wins for us," said Vrabel. "His wins over Cardillo of Brandeis and Riley of BC were critical. Stuart continues to improve weekly and he will be a serious contender at NCAA Regionals. Nieto and Roberts dominated their slots, losing only one bout each. At the start of the season I don't think many people would have given SHU foil much of a chance of repeating their Vitale Cup win. The hard work and dedication all year of these fencers earned them this accomplishment."
"We have been able to evolve in a very positive way this season and we have overcome a lot of adversity'" comments Vrabel. "CJ Fleck did a wonderful job talking over for Quigley today. He was very close to going undefeated. It was a remarkable accomplishment for his first time out as a starter in epee. He will be shifting to epee next season and should be even more successful when he concentrates on the weapon full time. There is not much that hasn't already been said about Justin Dion's performance this year. His undefeated run in the medal round shows that he will be one of the epee fencers to beat at NCAA Regionals in two weeks. Marty Williams is also fencing well and should also have a good chance to make it to the NCAA Championship round this year. Sean Vilar was very impressive today. Sean is a great natural athlete and as his confidence grows so will his success. I can't wait to see what he will do for us next season."
The Pioneer's will be next in action at the Regional round of the NCAA Championships, which will be held at Vassar College on March 13. SHU qualified all nine starting spots, and will be represented by Holmes, Nieto and Roberts competing in foil, Dion, German and Quigley in epee, and Williams, Freiss and Vilar in saber.