(Philadelphia, PA) - The #9 SHU Pioneer Men's Fencing team continued their dream season on Sunday when they traveled to the University of Pennsylvania for the Philadelphia Invitational. The Pioneers defeated # 8 Duke 16-11, UNC Chapel Hill 26-1, Haverford 21-6, Drew 24-3 and NJIT 23-4. The only blemish on the day was a tough 14-13 loss to the # 7 ranked Penn Quakers. The 5-1 performance raised Sacred Heart's season record to 16-3.
Sacred Heart started the day by taking on UPenn. The match was tied 9 all after two rounds. Penn won 4 of the foil and saber bouts in the last round, which meant that the Pioneers would have to sweep the final three epee bouts to capture their first ever win over the Quakers. Juniors Jeremiah German and Mike Fenech both won overtime bouts which set up a winner take all between Senior All American Justin Dion And Penn's Carl Fischler. Dion jumped out to a quick lead only to have Fischler storm back to tie the bout. The bout was tied 4-4 going in to overtime. Unfortunately, for the first time in his career, Dion came up on the short end of the final touch to decide a match and Fischler won the bout and the match for Penn 14-13.
The Pioneers bounced back against an improving Drew squad 24-3 and then prepared to take on # 8 Duke. The Blue Devils got off to a fast start in the first round, led by a sweep of saber to take a 6-3 lead. Sacred Heart bounced back to win seven bouts in the second round, led by 3-0 sweeps in epee and saber. Mike Fenech got the clinching 14th win to seal this important victory and wins by Stuart Holmes and Justin Dion made the final tally 16-11 for the Pioneers.
The team continued its dominance after the lunch break to close out a fantastic 5-1 effort. While many Pioneers excelled today, the performances of freshman foilist Andrew Holmes, senior saber All-American Marty Williams, and junior epeeist Mike Fenech bear special mention. Holmes was a very impressive 14-3 on the day and he now has the best win percentage on the foil squad with a 28-18 mark. Williams went 11-1 on the day, including an crucial win over Penn's first team All American Evan Prochniak. Fenech led the epee squad with a 12-2 record and he raised his season mark to 33-13.
"I am very pleased with how the entire team fenced today," comments head coach Dr. Thomas Vrabel. "We new that we had put ourselves in an excellent position to solidify our top ten ranking with a good performance. While the end result of the Penn match was disappointing , our effort and quality of execution was not. It was not long ago when top teams like Penn would use matches with us to get playing time for their second string. That is definitely not the case today! Andrew Holmes had a break out performance today. He is developing a very quick and powerful foil game and I expect to continue to see him get better in every match. He has really improved his chances for a strong seed at NCAA regionals. Marty Williams is the most focused and efficient that he has ever been in his career as a Pioneer. He simply dominated today. I look for Marty to keep up this level of excellence all the way to the NCAA Championships. Mike Fenech is becoming quite a force in epee. He has developed an excellent mix of power and finesse that makes him a very tough opponent. Mike also raised his stock for NCAA Regionals quite a bit."
All three squads dominated today, with epee leading the way with a 43-11 overall mark. They were followed closely by saber whowent 40-14 and foil who were 39-15. "We really don't have any holes in our lineup and we are at least four deep with top performers in each weapon," said Dr. Vrabel. "With five matches left, a 20-win season is a real possibility. Our team now has bought in to wanting to prepare harder than any of our opponents. We have become firm believers in John Wooden's mantra, 'Failing to prepare prepares you to fail,' and Sun Tze's dictum, "All battles are won before they begin.' Winning sure makes the extra effort worth it".
The Pioneers are back in action on Saturday, January 28 th at Yale's Paine Whitney Gym at noon for their annual meet with the # 10 Bulldogs.