Fencing: UConn heads to NEIFC Championship this Saturday

UConn C-rated fencers Sam Zelin (left) and Edward Russell (right) face off at the Fairfield Fencing Academy Open on Feb. 19, 2022. Both will be competing for UConn at the New England Intercollegiate Fencing Conference Championships this Saturday, Feb. 26. Photo courtesy of Mackenzie Weng

New England Intercollegiate Fencing Conference action is back! UConn will head to Brandeis University this Saturday to battle for strip supremacy against a myriad of fencing schools from across the northeast. Amongst those in attendance will be the host Brandeis, Vassar, MIT, Tufts, Sacred Heart, Northeastern, Stony Brook, UMass, Dartmouth, URI, WPI, BU, Smith and Mount Holyoke, as well as any other NEIFC teams that did not compete in the Fall Invitational. 

While the NEIFC’s tournament in the fall was purely individual, this one is mostly team-oriented. Every team will face every other team, round robin-style, with one fencer from each squad matching up against a counterpart on the opposing side. Each team designates an A fencer, a B fencer and a C fencer, as well as a substitute, and then each A fences each A, each B fences each B, and each C fences each C. To win a round, a team simply needs two out of three victories, so if the A and the C win, but the B loses, it’s still a win. 

After the team phase ends, there is a shortened version of an individual bracket. Based on performance in the round robin, the six best A fencers, the four best B fencers and the two best C fencers will be seeded into a 12-person tournament, which will consist of a group pool stage and a direct elimination bracket round. 

At the end of the day, top teams, top squads and top individuals will be recognized and awarded. On top of this, the NEIFC also gives an award to the top club team, given to the team that does the best on the day, not including NCAA rosters. 

UConn will bring 20 fencers to Brandeis: eight for foil and six each for epee and sabre. Here are some names to watch for on Saturday:  

A17-rated Sabre fencer Alan Fotiyev took first place at the NEIFC Fall Invitational last November, and looks to pilot the men’s sabre team to victory again. Also on men’s sabre are Ruiwen Lin, Nicolas Rossiter and Aidan Schoffstall who will all be making their debuts. For women’s sabre, Alexandria Boutin will look for redemption after losing a heartbreaking 14-15 elimination bout in the fall that saw her come back from being six touches down. She will be joined by former UConn fencing president Sarah Pasqualetti, normally a foilist, who will be making her sabre debut. 

Women’s epee will be fielding the same duo from the Fall Invitational, with team armorer Grace McFadden and Lela Romeo running it back. For men’s epee, C21-rated fencer Edward Russell, who missed the fall tournament due to unforeseen circumstances, is back to head up a squad made up of Adin Jennings (E18), team president Sam Zelin (C19) and Christopher Pedersen (D19). 

Men’s foil has also undergone a few changes since the fall. Leading the team is Xavier Braun, making his NEIFC debut, followed by Philippos Nicopoulos, Joshua Liefeld and Garrick Leclue, who are all making their debut. Women’s foil, similar to women’s epee, will be returning all four fencers from fall: team vice president Sneha Kumar, team secretary Kathryn Atkinson, team treasurer Sally Dai and Julia Luscomb. 

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