(Fairfield, CT) - Dr. Thomas Vrabel, Sacred Heart University Fencing Coach, has announced that twelve incoming fencers will be joining the Pioneer Men's fencing team this fall. This group includes five foilists, four epeeists, and three saberists. "We have never before had a recruiting class with this level of talent and numbers," says coach Vrabel. "On paper, this exceptional group is probably the third best team ever to be fielded by our program. I look for this class to be the backbone of the team over the next few years."
The five freshmen foilists coming to Sacred Heart are Jonathan Jacovino, Andrew Holmes, Cooper Johnson, Jordan Pagano, and Eric Von Fischer.
Jacovino is from Brownfield, ME, and is a graduate of New Life Christian Academy. He is an A-rated foilist and also is a B-rated epeeist who brings many years of accomplishment at the national and international levels. He was ranked in the top ten foilists in the United States as a cadet fencer (16 and under). In 2009, he placed 19th in a cadet world cup competition in Warsaw, Poland. He is currently ranked 21st in the United States in Junior (18 and under) epee. He is a member of the Barn Door Fencing Club, where he is coached by Cathy McClellan. "I am very excited to have Jonathan joining the squad this season," comments Dr. Vrabel. "Jonathan is an elite level fencer in both foil and epee and has the unique ability to fence each weapon using classical strategies for each weapon. With most fencers you can tell that they are, for example, an epeeist fencing foil, but this is not the case with Jacovino. We look to have him competing for the team in foil, but I look for Jonathan to be spending a lot of time fencing with our epee squad as well. He is one of several multi-weapon fencers that we have in the program."
Holmes is from Centereach, NY and was a first-team all Long Island selection for his Centereach High School fencing team, where he followed his brother Stuart (current SHU team captain) as a team captain of Centereach. This past high school season he was the foil champion at both the Mamaroneck and Brentwood Invitational tournaments. He is currently a B-rated foilist. Holmes is a member of Mission Fencing Center, where he is coached by Jenny Salmon. "Andrew comes to the Pioneers with a high school fencing resume that is even more impressive than his brother Stuart had when he joined the team three years ago," said Dr. Vrabel. "The Holmes brothers are both left-handed, which doesn't hurt. Andrew has a very explosive and athletic foil style and I see him earning his A rating very soon. He has beaten many very accomplished fencers during this year's USFA season and I see him being a strong contributor to the foil squad this year."
Johnson is a C-rated foilist from Colchester, CT where he captained the Bacon Academy fencing team for the past three seasons. Cooper was the Eastern Connecticut Fencing Conference foil champion as a senior and a Connecticut first-team all-state selection as a junior. Johnson is member of ICONN Fencing Center and is coached by David Comas-Diaz.
Pagano is from Berkeley Heights, NJ, where he captained the Governor Livingston High School fencing team. He is a D-rated foilist who fences at the Clinton Fencing Club, where he is coached by Andy Andrews.
Von Fischer is from Cheshire, CT and was the captain of the Cheshire High School fencing team this past season. He is a member of the Candlewood Fencing Center where he is coached by Alex Fotiev.
"Pagano, Johnson, and Von Fischer all come to the program in a position similar to fencers like Stuart Holmes, Justin Dion, and Jim Roberts," said Dr. Vrabel. "They all have the potential to explode on to the collegiate scene. With eight foilists on the team, the toughest competition will probably be to make the starting lineup. All of these fencers have the athletic ability to be big pieces in our puzzle. Time will tell who will be able to rise to the level needed to be a starter."
The foil squad returns two junior starters from last season, including team captain Stuart Holmes and Victor Nieto. They are joined by the rapidly improving sophomore Brendan Stokes.
The epee squad will be adding junior transfer Michael Fenech, freshmen Kevin Almerini, Neil Doppler, and Khristopher White.
Fenech is coming to SHU after completing two years of study at Arizona State University. He has been an A-rated epeeist since 2005 and is also C-rated in foil and saber. He has led his ASU Club epee squad to the last two National Collegiate Club Epee championships, placing third and seventh respectively. Fenech hails from Prescott, AZ and is a member of the Salle d'Escrime of Prescott. "Mike is a great addition to our epee squad," says Dr. Vrabel. "He was a nationally ranked cadet and junior epeeist and he has proven himself both in the collegiate club fencing ranks and in USFA competition for several years. Fenech should be able to step right in to the starting lineup this season." Since Arizona State does not have an NCAA fencing program, Fenech will be eligible for competition this season and will have three years of NCAA eligibility remaining.
Doppler is a C-rated epeeist from Delran, NJ and Delran High School. He is a member of the Fencing Academy of South Jersey, where he is coached by Kevin Cho.
Almerini is also a C-rated epeeist from Middletown, NJ. He is a graduate of Christian Brothers Academy. Almerini is a member of the Atlantic Fencing Academy, where he is coached by Istvan Marton.
White is from East Orange, NJ, where he was a multi-year starter on the epee squad of St. Benedict's High School and helped lead his team to the New Jersey Prep Championship last season. White was also a member of the NJ Prep All Star team last year. He fences for the Peter Westbrook Foundation and his coach is Seoung Woo Lee.
"We are very fortunate to have such a talented group join our epee squad this year," comments Vrabel. "While we were strong in epee last season, we had no depth behind our starters until CJ Felck was able to split time between saber and epee. We were very lucky that all of our starters stayed healthy through the season. I see all three of these epeeists as potential starters in the near future. With Justin Dion being a senior and Jeremiah German a junior, there is some turnover in the immediate future for our epee squad. White, Doppler, and Almerini will be valuable contributors this season and will be in great position to vie for starting roles very soon."
Two very accomplished saber fencers round out the 2011 fall recruiting class. Thomas Gerrity is from Setauket, NY and graduate of St. Anthony's High School. He is a B-rated saberist and is the 2010 Division II USFA National Champion. Gerrity fences for Mission Fencing Center and his coach is Jeff Salmon.
Chris DiPietro is from Sommersville, NJ, where he was the saber captain for Hunterdon Central High School last season. During his high school career, DiPietro started for Hunterdon Central in both saber and foil. Chris fences at the Medeo Fencing Club, where he is coached by George LaTorre.
These saber fencers will be joining a squad that returns second team All-American senior Marty Williams, Sean Vilar, Ryan O'Halloran, and Peter Freiss from last year's starting lineup. "Gerrity, Loft, and DiPietro will be great additions to our rapidly improving saber squad," said Dr. Vrabel. "In addition to being very athletic, Tom Gerrity is also left handed, which is an asset. Chris DiPietro brings excellent skills and leadership experience. As with foil, we will have eight saber fencers this season, so the competition for the getting into the starting lineup will be intense. I think that it is safe to say that we will be penciling in Stuart Holmes, Marty Williams, and Justin Dion as starters. With the exceptional depth of talent that we have this year, I see the competition for the other six starting spots as wide open."
The Sacred Heart Men's and Women's fencing teams will be holding their annual Red – White Scrimmage in late October at the Pitt Center. Collegiate competition will begin with both Teams participating at the "Big One" tournament at Smith College on Saturday, November 5, 2011.