After over a year and a half break from conference events, the University of Connecticut fencing team heads to Vassar this Sunday for the North England Intercollegiate Fencing Conference Fall Invitational. With a roster of 22 fencers attending the individual event, hopes are high for a strong showing. The NEIFC is a unique conference, as it includes both NCAA and club squads, so there is significant opportunity to fence a variety of styles and skill levels. Other schools competing on Sunday include club teams Boston University, Dartmouth, Northeastern, Stony Brook, Tufts’ Men’s team, UMass, UNH, URI, UVM and Williams, as well as NCAA teams Brandeis, MIT, Sacred Heart, Tufts’ Women’s Team and Vassar.
For the men’s épée tournament, UConn is sending seven fencers to a pool of 85. Returning UConn starters Edward Russell and Sam Zelin are the highest seeded of the squad, with initial seeds of 21 and 25 respectively. After a disappointing showing at the NEIFC Championships in February of 2020, these two look to bounce back with the return of tournament play.
Next, UConn has two other USFA rated fencers for men’s épée, newcomers Chris Pedersen and Adin Jennings, seeded at 31 and 36. This is Pedersen’s first event fencing for UConn, while Jennings outperformed the rest of the team in October’s scrimmage tournament with URI, WPI and Smith.
Rounding out the seven are Brad Corrado, Phil Nicopoulos and Braden Migneault at seeds 66, 67 and 68. Corrado and Nicopoulos both have fencing experience from before coming to the UConn team, while Migneault came to the sport at the beginning of this semester.
UConn’s women’s épée team is sending two fencers to a pool of 59. Returning starter Grace McFadden and newcomer Lela Romeo are seeded at 50 and 49 . McFadden swapped from foil to épée in 2020, and is competing in her second tournament for UConn épée, having fenced at the Fall Invitational as a foilist in 2019. Romeo joined fencing at the beginning of the semester, and is competing for the first time.
UConn men’s foil is sending four fencers to a pool of 72. Returning starter Dalton Hawie is joined by Josh Liefeld, Dan Schurk and Eric Moore, all of whom have been with the team for multiple years. While the squad has no USFA ratings, placing their seedings at 50, 51, 52 and 53, they bring years of experience to the piste and look to perform well on Sunday.
At the previous Fall Invitational, Moore and Hawie placed 57th and 58th.
Similarly to men’s foil, the women’s squad is also sending four fencers to the tournament, with a total pool of 55. Returning starter Kathryn Atkinson, the only UConn fencer to make the individual stage of the 2020 NEIFC Championship, is seeded highest of the group at 7. Sneha Kumar, who fenced at the 2019 Invitational, is seeded 12th. Kumar and Atkinson are the two fencers who competed in the previous invitational, where they placed 29th and 30th.
Other fencers from the squad are Sally Dai and Julia Luscomb, with seeds 43 and 44. Luscomb comes to the team with experience fencing in high school, and competed at the October scrimmage. Dai joined the team last year, but given that competition was suspended due to COVID-19, this is her first tournament.
Men’s sabre is also sending four fencers to a pool of 71. Returning starters Andy Friebus and Thomas George are seeded at 16 and 56, respectively. While Friebus was unable to compete in the last NEIFC event, George did compete and earned a victory over Sacred Heart. George also placed 36th in the 2019 Fall Invitational.
The women’s sabre squad is only sending one fencer, Alex Boutin, to a field of 49. Boutin is a returning starter, and is going into Sunday seeded 15th. Having competed in the previous Fall Invitational, Boutin looks to improve on a 21st place finish.
Overall, this tournament will be a steep mountain to climb for a team getting back into the tournament groove after a long hiatus, but the climb is certainly not impossible.