The Sacred Heart University Men's Fencing Team took the first critical step on their quest for a third consecutive Northeast Fencing Conference Championship as they went a perfect 5-0 at the NFC meet at the University of New Hampshire on Saturday. They defeated Bostun University 27-0, Brown University 14-13, Brandeis university 19-8, University of New Hampshire 25-2 and MIT 20-7. This makes the third consecutive year that the Pioneers have defeated the Brown Bruins by a 14-13 score.
The Pioneers were led on the day and in the crucial Brown match by threesome of freshman sensation Jonathan Jacovino in foil and the senior All American duo of Justin Dion in epee and Marty Williams in Saber. Sacred Heart came out strong in the first round by going 7-2. The crucial win in this stanza was the 5-1 win by Jacovino over Brown's freshman foil star Barrett Weiss. Brown rebounded in the second round, winning five bouts and closing the gap to 11-7. This put them in a similar situation to the Pioneers last year, who were down 12-9 going in to the final bouts of saber and epee. The Pioneers won five of six, including critical final bouts from Dion and Williams. This year Brown needed to take seven of nine remaining bouts to topple the Pioneers. Brown first closed the gap to 11-10 by sweeping the last three foil bouts by 5-4 margins. Jeremiah German won his final epee bout to make it 12-10 but Brown's Ben McDnoald defeated Mike Fenech in epee and Brown swept the first two saber bouts to make it Brown 13-12 with Dion and Williams' final bouts remaining. Marty Williams soundly defeated Brown's Pete Tyson 5-1 to set up a winner take all bout between Dion and Brown's Kelly McGuire. This bout went to 4-4 in overtime, where Dion set up an excellent attack to McGuire's wrist to seal the victory and the match for SHU.
"I was so proud of the team today," comments head coach Dr. Tom Vrabel. "The results from the BIG ONE showed that Brown had greatly improved their squad and would be a formidable challenge. We dominated the first round and held off their furious comeback to get the decision into the hands of Marty Williams and Justin Dion. They are our answer to Mariano Rivera. In their four years at SHU I believe that they are 17-1 in bouts where we needed their final victories to win matches. That is a very impressive record for the twosome. Both teams fought their hearts out in this match. Every bout was important and hotly contested. Our coming out on the winning side of three straight decisions against Brown is a real testament to the determination of our team. I am so impressed with of all of them".
In the other matches of the day, SHU dominated from the beginning and were not headed. The epee squad was 37-8 on the day, including a 7-2 record against Brown. Justin Dion was 14-1 and was closely followed by juniors Mike Fenech (12-2) and squad captain Jeremiah German (8-3). The epee squad is now undefeated in 11 matches this season. They were closely followed by the foil squad's 35-10 day. In addition to Jacovino going 12-3, junior team captain Stuart Holmes was 11-3 and freshman Andrew Holmes was 8-4. Led by Marty Williams 14-1 day the saber squad was 33-12. Supporting Williams were Junior Ryan O'Halloran (6-0), freshman Tom Gerrity (7-5) and sophomore Peter Freiss (6-5).
"I am very pleased with how our team is shaping up this season," said Dr. Vrabel. "We are strong across the board and are either 4 or 5 deep with fencers in each weapon that would have been at least B strip fencers for us in past seasons. Jacovino and Fenech have been everything that we had hoped they would be and Andrew Holmes is doing great and is ahead of where I expected him to be this early in the year. Tom Gerrity has lost a lot of 5-4 bouts to top competitors. I know that it is only a matter of time before most those 5-4 bouts will be going his way. In addition to beating Brown, Brandeis, and MIT in league competition, we have already had a strong win against Vassar in non conference play. We now have to maintain our focus and look to again go 5-0 when we meet Boston College and the rest of the league slate in February. Right now, I like where we stand".
The Pioneers will take a major step up in class when they travel to Penn State on December 3rd to take on perennial national powers Penn State, Harvard, Princeton, UNC Chapel Hill and NYU.