December 3, 2011

Sacred Heart Men's Fencing Defeats Penn State

(State College, PA) - The Pioneers had one of the most memorable days in program history on Saturday when they traveled to State College, Pennsylvania.  The Pioneers defeated Penn State 14-13, UNC Chapel Hill 18-9, and NYU 19-8  while losing to Harvard 17-10 and Princeton 19-8.  This was the first time that Sacred Heart has the defeated the perennial power and multiple NCAA Champions Penn State.

Following the loss to Harvard to start the day, SHU bounced back to control a strong North Carolina squad 18-9.  While all three weapons won their squad matches against the Tar Heels, Epee once again led the way with an impressive 7-2 mark.  After the lunch break the Pioneers fell to a very strong Princeton team 19-8 and prepared to take on Penn State. 

"We noticed that Penn State was fencing several back ups and resting some important starters against us," said head coach Dr. Tom Vrabel.  "I think that they underestimated us and we knew that we had a good shot at this win.  We took great advantage of the opportunity.  I think that they will not consider us as lightly in the future."

The Pioneers stayed close in the first round by winning two bouts each in epee and saber to be down 5-4 after the first round.  They then took all six foil and epee bouts in the second round to make the score 10-8 SHU after two rotations.  Wins by Marty Williams and Peter Freiss in Saber and the ever dependable Justin Dion in epee meant that Sacred Heart would have to win one of the final three foil bouts to clinch this historic victory for the program.  After Andrew Holmes and Jonathan Jacovino fought valiantly but came up short on two 5-3 decisions, it was left up to Junior team captain Stuart Holmes to secure the win against Penn State's Michael El-Saleh.  Homes took control of the tempo of the bout early with several strong attacks into El-Saleh's preparations and cruised to the momentous 5-1 win to secure the match.  The team retained its focus against NYU and finished the day strong with a 19-8 win.

Stuart Holmes led the foil squad with a 8-7 record on the day.  The epee squad was an impressive 25-18 with the ever consistent Justin Dion sweeping Penn State, NYU and North Carolina on the way to a 12-3 record.    All-American Marty Williams led the saber squad with an 11-4 mark.     

"This was the best day of competition that our program has ever seen," said Dr. Vrabel.  "The win over Penn State was just amazing but I am not at all surprised with the way that we fenced that match.  We now believe that we are capable of achieving top ten status.  We have finished the fall campaign with an 11-2 record, which is very impressive.  I am very proud of how Stuart Holmes finished the Penn State match.  We now have three fencers in Holmes, Dion and Williams that can win against top competition in high pressure situations when the match is on the line.  Winning performance under these conditions is what competitive athletics is all about."

The Pioneers will resume competition on the weekend of January 22nd at the Philadelphia Invitational at the University of Pennsylvania.